This is a description of the dedicated music system I had in my previous home. I no longer have this system set up, but I'm using some of these components in my new home theater. I am also selling some of the components I am no longer using.
Over the years, I've owned stereo equipment from several different manufacturers (including Mark Levinson, Krell, Audio Research, Conrad Johnson, Spectral, Cello, Meridian, Sunfire, Revel, B&W, Magnepan, Duntech, Oracle, Goldmund, Rotel, Adcom, Sony, Philips, SAE, Entec, and others I can't think of right now). I've tried to assemble systems by selecting individual components I thought sounded good, often mixing a pre-amp from one manufacturer with an amp from another. Likewise for source components. I've owned dozens of different source components, preamps and amps.
One thing I've learned from my trials and tribulations is that systems formed from one manufacturer's equipment will often sound better than mixing and matching components from two or more vendors. I attribute this to the fact that a manufacturer will always use its own gear to design, test, and tune new components, so the performance of a component will always be optimized for use with other components from that vendor.
When assembling this music system (in 1997), I decided to use Krell electronics. I'd owned a pair of Krell MDA-300 monoblocks in the past and was very impressed with their dynamics, bass response and detail. I built my current system primarily by purchasing used equipment (the speakers were the only component I purchased new). I had good luck finding the specific components I wanted on the Internet, and ended up paying approximately 50% of retail.
My music system contains the following components:
|Magnum Dynalab FT101A FM tuner|
|Krell MD-10 CD transport|
|Krell Reference 64 DAC|
|Krell KRC-HR preamplifier|
|Krell FPB300 amplifier|
|Revel Ultima Gem speakers|
|Cello Strings balanced interconnects|
|MIT 770 biwire speaker cables|
There are many great manufacturers producing excellent equipment, and its certainly possible to create an excellent sounding system from many of their products. One of the criteria I use to select between the various brands (besides how much I like the sound) is how well I think the product will hold its value. I occasionally get the itch to upgrade my system. It is much easier to do so if I can sell my existing equipment for an appreciable percentage of what I paid for it. Components from popular brands (and particularly those that have received great reviews) are much easier to sell than components from esoteric brands.
A system composed of components of this caliber will obviously sound pretty good. The question should be - what are its limitations and idiosyncrasies?
My wife is very sensitive to any harshness in the high end. This is one of the reasons I selected the MIT speaker cable. With this cable, the system delivers a very smooth high end, but lacks the sparkle and lightness that the very best systems provide. Because of my living room layout, I was forced to use long (25ft) speaker cables which further exacerbate this issue.
While the system is resolving, I don't think it delivers that last bit of detail that is possible on the best systems. This is only at all evident on the very best recordings.
The low-end response of the Gems is limited to about 40 Hz. I don't really miss this with the music I like listening to. In fact, I had the Revel Sub connected to this system before I set up my home theater. I found the degradation caused by the subwoofer crossover far more egregious than the loss of bass without it. The Gems alone tend to have a slightly warm bottom end that I find very pleasant for the Jazz music I like to listen to.
The soundstage from this system tends to be a little laid back and is not as deep as the best systems I've heard. This may be partially due to the fact that the speakers are in front of a floor-to-ceiling glass wall. Surprisingly, this doesn't seem to cause any other problems with the sound.
The side-to-side imaging is incredibly precise and I even get some vertical separation (although, again, not quite as much as I've heard on the best systems).
This system can be magical on the right recording (such as Holly Cole Temptation).