Today I popped in to visit a chap I know from one of the other hi-fi forums that I frequent. I first met the chap last year when he bought my old Naim CD player. At the time he was running some big horn loaded Impulse H2 speakers on the back of a WAD integrated valve amp, my old Naim CDP and a Michell Gyrodec. Frankly I wasn't impressed at the time. Awesome dynamics, but could rip your ears off with no problem at all. In the meantime, there have been a few changes, so I thought it would be good to have a second go. Wow, have they changed. Same speakers, these: The picture doesn't really do them justice for size. They also don't look as big as they are in real life. Standing at around 1.3m, they're probably 50cm deep. As a unit, they're 3 way horn loaded units, with a high efficiency, making it easy for even low powered SET amps to drive. In practice, Rob is using a 40watt 6550 valve amp from a group called WAD. The valve power amp is on the far left of this shot: The rest of the kit is: Far left bottom - a record cleaning machine. Basically a hoover for LPs Middle Top - WAD pre-amp, PSU and phono stage Middle - Sony ES3000 CDP and my own Bel Canto DAC2 Middle Bottom - Behringer 24 unit. Won't comment on this now, he Rob rates it and I'll be trying it out in my own system soon. Right Top - Micro Seiki record deck. Looks ancient, and it is, circa 1974 Right middle - Accuphase tuner Right bottom - Record deck PSU and speed control box Cutting to the chase, this system is as good in it's own way as any home system I've ever heard. It's simply so natural in it's style of presentation. What it doesn't do is "impress" with overblown bass or similar (though it can go down to 28hz with no problems, as demonstrated on one track). The presentation is also different to most, giving the feeling that you're in a fairly large hall/concert room, and a third of the way back into it. If you've heard other good systems, you'll know what I mean. Naim sticks you next to the stage, with the band at the front. My own is a small jazz bar, this puts you further away and whilst still having stunning dynamics, doesn't make you run for cover. As the speakers are unchanged, I'm guessing the biggest improvement has been with the new pre-amp, which is rather special. Some other interesting comparisons. I was rather impressed with the Sony ES unit, which got quite close to my BC DAC in many ways, but blew it at the last minute by having overblown mid bass, and simply not being able to sound as natural and fun over longer periods of time. Whilst the Sony was heavily modded, these units are pretty cheap to buy, so for VFM, it's good stuff. The Micro-seiki still managed to make my DAC sound broken. This deck is a good 30 years old, but has a nearly new SME arm and Lyra Argo catridge (just don't ask the cost of either). There was simply no discernable noise from the deck through the system (something most decks suffer from to differing degrees) and it really did bring to life music from a variety of records that Rob played. Just joyous to listen to. As for surround sound, well one of the albums played was a 1958 mono LP with Ella on it, made every home cinema system I've ever heard sound completely pants. Should sound even better with a dedicated mono cartridge. Rob already has the cartridge, just waiting for a second arm to mount it on. So all in all, a damn good afternoon and music listening. Hopefully I'll get to try the Behringer in the next couple of weeks in my own system. It's meant to be able to bugger about with the sound of a system to wipe out some of the peaks that room nodes can create. As it costs peanuts (in the context of expensive systems) and can be run in purely the digital domain (if sited between CD transport and DAC), could be interesting. I'll keep you chaps posted.