Sweet Spot: stereo, the way it's meant to be

I had the pleasure of listening to a friend’s hi fi system the other day. I’ve heard a few over the years, including some pretty fancy ones, but I was genuinely impressed to witness what can be achieved on a relatively tight budget when careful selection of components and enough passion is applied. Most times when I sit down and listen, what I hear is so often over baked and disappointing. It’s not hard to get the basics right... but all too often they can be over looked.

Stereo 101

So you’ve got a hi fi system and you don’t know if what you are experiencing is actually “stereo”... try the following:

Situate yourself directly between your left and right speakers. Move your listening position progressively outwards along the centre line to find the “sweet spot”. If the majority of the music appears to be coming from directly in front of you, then you have probably achieved the first important goal of stereo. Amazing as it may sound, 2 out of 10 systems I hear don’t even produce an adequate stereophonic image. Everything else flows from this and there can be no sense in getting too pointy-headed about the latest CD, amplifier or cable if you haven’t got the basics squared away.

Warren’s System

Warren’s system is stunning to put it mildly:

  • Perreaux preamplifier
  • Perreaux power amplifier
  • Kimber speaker cable (bass)
  • Slinkylinks speaker cable (mid/treble)
  • Magnepan MG 2C speakers (yes, a speaker from the 80’s)
  • Modified crossover:
    • ClarityCap capacitor (mid/treble)
    • Sledgehammer Coil (bass)
    • Silver, Teflon coated, platted internal speaker wire
  • Sound deadening on all critical points in the listening room (so the room isn’t too “dead” or reflective)

Warren sat me down in the sweet spot and from the get go it really takes your breath away. His sound has been put together by someone who has been tinkering with his system for years. To me it embodies the true meaning of stereo. You sit down and there directly in front of you as if by magic is the band. You are hit with a huge deep soundstage, vocal imaging, that is so separated from the music it’s spooky.

Warren says:

“I like to enjoy the performance of the artist, not listen to music from speakers. My aim was to build a system where you are immersed in music, savour the performance. Certainly not just good sound from a speaker, but a realistic spine-tingling performance.”

“Having a high-quality high-current Perreaux amp in charge of the engine-room really delivers a stunning display of music and performance from these old speakers.”

The Magnepan speakers in his setup are impressive to say the least... being a planar speaker, you get all the benefits of a low mass transducer and more. At 1.8m (5'11") the Magnepans are a tall speaker so you get a wall of sound coming at you. One thing I will say if you are considering using a pair is to place them carefully and watch room interactions. Placement is a critical part of almost all speakers, Warren reckons even more so with Maggies.

Warrens system has gallons of bass on tap… ok it’s never going to be an in-your-face type experience that you might get from a 15” woofer but it was all there.

In practice few achieve the quality of sound that Warren has... his system is up there with the best I’ve heard.

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