by Lukasz Lampizator Fikus (2008)

So what do I mean by the state of audio Nirvana?

Let me list some very basic conditions:
1. The music in our room sounds drop dead gorgeous
2. five seconds after closing of our eyes and listening we can visualize all musicians and their instruments. We can follow each instrument and each thread easily and we can enjoy the piece as a whole
3. We do not have any clue that we listen to stereo not musicians (with eyes closed)
4. When the music is touchy we get goose bumps
5. When we listen to good albums we continue all the way to the end and we finish with an eargasm
6. We have zero itch to tweak, sell, buy or upgrade. System becomes unimportant and invisible
7. 10 out of 10 visitors, be it audiophiles or regulars, comment that they never heard better music reproduction
8. The illusion of  "they are here" or better "I am there" is so real it is truly scary. The room in our brain is totally replaced by the perception of the recorded event.
9. The music sounds fantastic at REALISTIC levels that means at the sound level similar to the loudness at the original event (usually this means bloody LOUD)
10.  I can't think of point number ten just for the sake of having a nice round list of 10.

How not to get to audio Nirvana

1. Read all audio magazines. Especially cut through the writing straight to the verdict.
2. Pay attention to 5 star products only.
3. Invest in shakti stones, spiked cones, snake oil, CD demagnetizers, anti vibration platforms, cables that contain silver and gold,
4. Pay attention to CD players which have lowest THD (total harmonic distortion) and amplifiers which have highest damping factor above 1000
5. Regularly visit your friendly dealer and without any strings attached let him get you hooked on the latest Stereophile Recommended Levinson 959.05 for 33 000 USD like a bargain
6. Fill your room with bass traps, diffusers, and sound lenses
7. Move to the basement and build a dedicated room isolated from family, friends, relatives and fresh air.
8. Go to every audio show you can
9. replace all capacitors with Black Gates and all resistors with Vishays and all diodes with Hexfreds IMMEDIATELY.
10. Play the pink noise at max volume and leave the system on repeat for one week.
11. Buy a 10 KWatt pure sinus replicator generator and feed your system with proper AC, and immediately  the music will just sound heavenly ... dead. The master guru in the magazine said that the AC is really out of shape these days and that it is REALLY bad for the system.

Now seriously, here is how I  see it:

1. Lets concentrate on 3 key elements: CD source, amplifier and the loudspeakers.

Concerning the CD source - all has been said in the lampizator section. Just use any decent tubed player and if you can - use any decently built player which has Philips TDA1541 or 1540 DAC chip, Burr Brown PCM56, PCM58, PCM61, PCM63K, PCM1702, PCM1704, 1738, 1794 or CS4327, CS 4397, 4398,  or AD1862, 1865, AD1852, etc.  and lampize it (tubify or valvolize if you wish). You can also buy a dac that already has tubes like ZERO DAC  , SATCH DAC,   RAKK dac or Audionote DAC 2 or 3 or any other decently proven kit like my Lampucera. You can get fabulous DACS and all other interesting tubed stuff from Hong Kong - here: Especially the 1704 tubed DAC for 299 euro or the newest (maybe RAKK clone?) Sweet Sound DAC PCM 1798  . Or maybe such chinese player as this: CD SHENGYA.   or SHANLING300.  You will find the gems in my pages about CD players.

Concerning the amps, I say the amps MUST be tubed, better SET than Push Pull, better mono than stereo, and better balanced than SE. But it is really down to the budget.

What I can recommend without hesitation is to get a Chinese Music Angel  MA845 stereo SET amp with super mighty 845 tubes like that:
or even here:
Or this is a verified shop with lotsa goodies:
or a similar amp like Music Angel KT88.

It is superbly built, looks great and sounds like 10 times its price, at the time of writing - 600 USD plus shipping, tubes included. I could live with this amp forever. Particularly the bass is AWESOME.  Nobody needs better amp seriously, unless you want a US made Cary 805 or something like that.

Having already the CD and amp, we can start building good speakers

This requires only minor wood working skills or help of a friendly carpenter.
The speakers need to be three-ways, with minimalistic cross-overs, no horns, no boxes, no mini monitors, no subs, no active systems, no 5 ways, no transmission lines. None of the above. We just need to mount three sensitive paper drivers on baffles and that's all.

What is difficult is getting bass right.

There are 3 levels of dealing with audio nirvana bass: Level A - top - to build the brick wall construction - this is for people who build new houses or simply decor their old one and decided to finish once and forever the bass problems. Just CUT the b/s and do it properly.

Level B is what I did - I build the so called infinite baffles made of bookshelves and I put them in room corners. This solution has many advantages:
- the bass is completely free of boooom, overhang, and any dirty artefacts
- the bass does not resonate in the room, does not wake the standing waves
- the bass is infinitely low without any huge box that dominates the room.
- it can't get stolen
- the books are good for your brain and look so "intelligent" in the room
- books are heavy and soft  and dampen baffle vibrations
- books have uneven depths so act as a diffusers for midrange and high sound from behind of the midrange baffles
- shelves are perpendicular to the bass baffle and stiffen it strongly
- this is the best bass money can buy.

Level C
Is the compromise - bass is in a big box (over 100 litres) and only mids and highs are on an open baffle, a la projects 6, 7, 8, 10 and 11
Because 18 inch bass driver is really huge, for visual reasons we mount it on the inner side ala project 10. The bass reflex pipe can face forward. Speakers are with bass drivers  inward facing.

The drivers: best drivers would be 15 inch alnico, but if you can't afford them - get generic 18 inch bass drivers with alu cast baskets like Alphard RW1800. seen above.
or here:
The alphard driver is built equally well as JBL pro series and costs 100 USD a piece. Unbelievable. We use them in P11 and I must say that it is the best bass I ever heard except Altec Lansing but that's entirely different story. Please FORGET the 8 inch, 10 inch and 12 inch bass drivers. Size DOES matter.
For the ebay surfers - you can almost never find pairs of 15 inch alnico bass, but you can find them as singles. Don't worry - they do not need to be the same. They are air moving pistons and it is okay if one is from one manufacturer and the other from another manufacturer, if it has slightly different look and parameters. It will be anyway INFINITELY better bass than from 20 000 USD Sonus Faber. Singles alnico can be found for as little as 50 Euro. But probably the alphard route is a more elegant one.

The most critical for quality of reproduction is the midrange driver. If midrange is wrong, nothing else matters.
Fortunately it is very easy to achieve. We need a piece of wood, 130 cm tall  x 40 cm wide. We mount the high driver at 100 cm height and the midrange just above it.
That is all we need.
The driver must be:
a) made of pure cellulose (paper)
b) have alnico magnet
c) have 20 cm in size, or at least from 18 to 23. It can be oval.
If you can find one, the horn full range drivers are good midranges like from Lowther or Fostex.

The best candidates are old tube radio drivers found in the radios from 50's and matched in pairs by speciallized driver collectors. Like my own Saba Grun. Go on and look for alnico.


The alnico 10 cm paper works just great for me, but only the one with open back baskets. Ribbons are great but pricey. Revelator ring tweeter is also great. But I would seriously stick to the 10 cm SABA alnico paper tweeter. Nobody needs a better tweeter.

So basically we came to copy of  P12  which is 101 dB/W/m sensitive and plays realistic levels at which you cant hear the person shouting next to you and the amplifier outputs only circa 0,8 watt in average, 1 watt peak.
Yes, we DON'T NEED powerful amps. Nobody needs 100 watts. Especially that if the first watt is crap, who cares about 99 more of them.

Having all elements what we need to address is the room placement.
The system must be left-to-right symmetrical in the room. The speakers should be 1 meter from rear wall (except bass which sits on the rear wall). The speakers may be 10 degrees toed in. The listener is in DEAD CENTER of the symmetry axis. The listener's head and speakers form a equilateral triangle with 60 degrees angles and equal sides.
The room should be reasonably well filled with furniture, a small carpet between listener and speakers is good.

That's all. That's all what is important, forget the rest. A nice addition in my room is a coffee table for holding the wine and 8 linear meters of CD's on the shelves.

Ooops, the picture proves how many times I managed to wet my pants while listening)

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