Affordable Speakers and Amps
Early January, Joe had the idea to invite some of his friends to a listening event at his place to audition some affordable amplifier creations and to see if musical pleasure can be found without mega buck investment.
I was happy to join when Joe invited me, not only because the idea was a great one, but also because he's really talented in cooking great food (he has a lot of practice due to his 4 kids) and audio gatherings at his place always incorporate a delicious meal ;-) The other friends who joined the audio session were Michael Joncic and David Haigner.
The intention was to evaluate how much listening pleasure can be achieved by using affordable audio components (DIY CD-player, different DIY amplifier concepts and a pair of well designed loudspeakers) in one system. The source used was Joe's budget CD-player design around the Sony Playstation PS1 (with AZ11 tube rectification and 37 triode output stage).
amplification, we tried four different DIY amplifier designs:
The loudspeaker used was a prototype version of David Haigner's latest reflex-horn design named Rho, which is a time-aligned, impedance linearized two way floor stand model with an efficiency of about 91 dB and moderate cabinet size. For two of the amps - the "El Cheapo" (1.5 Watt) and the "Wilimzig variant" (close to 1 Watt) - the efficiency was definitely to low (they would need about 100 dB to really shine), but listening with low to moderate levels gave us an impression of the amps' signature.
the musical qualities of all 4 amps within this set-up were very
high and one could wonder if paying many thousands of euros for high
end audio equipment is worth the difference in musical pleasure. (A
tough question, which every audio lover has to answer for himself;
for some audio equipment gems it's possibly worth it, but they are a
My personal favorite was Joe's "Le Monstre version" (due to the amount of iron in the power supply, this is a really heavy amp, though), which sounded open, clean and liquid, with superb mid range followed closely by the "El Cheapo" and Michael's "zero gain" impedance converting amplifier tying for second place. The "Wilimzig variant" combination was also wonderfully musical, but the power limitations could be heard the most with this combination. Trying the "Le Monstre version" and the "El Cheapo" without the pre amp, by connecting the CD-player directly to the amplifiers input improved the musical qualities further and in this configuration the "El Cheapo" was - despite the low output power - the winner. The bass was so fast and liquid - full of verve - the mid range was colorful and the top end wonderfully open, superb...
The "stars of the show" to my ears were David's Rho speakers (prototype version). They do so many things right, and over an astonishingly wide frequency range, that you wonder how it is possible given the size and the scheduled asking price (starting from approx. EUR 2,500 pair, depending on cabinet finish). The final product should be available for purchase later this spring and will cause quite a stir in the loudspeaker market, I'm sure.
Here are some photos of the fun session:
Joe's "Le Monstre version" (with a lot of iron and oil caps)
speakers plus "Wilimzig variant" tube amp (on the floor in
the front) and "El Cheapo" tube amp
the awesome Rho speakers please
questions regarding Joe's great sounding amps
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questions regarding Michael's
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