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Integrateds for Around $1000

 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1105
Registered: May-05
Ok guys,

Hello and miss you guys. I've got the bug again. I've talked the lovely wife into letting me sell my fisher tube amp and I'm looking at another integrated.

As you may recall, I have no real audio stores here in town to be able to actually listen before I buy so I'm relegated to traveling, which kinda eats into my budget, or buying based on reviews and comments. I put together a system for a friend with Tim's Lings and NAD C325BEE so I know something about the NAD sound.

I've found 3 potential candidates - 1 new, 1 manufacturer refurb and 1 used on Audiogon of a NAD C372, NAD C375BEE and PrimaLuna Prologue2. (I already know what Art will say.) I recognize that I'm putting SS with mucho power up against tubes and that alone is likely to change what I will hear.

So, are those my best bets in this price range and if so, what can you tell me about the options? If those are not the best options, what else can I find in this price range and why do you like it better, i.e., what does it do better, different, worse and how so? The primary source will be CDs from a very nice (bought used off Audiogon $2000 CD player, which I would tell you more about if I were home or my brain worked) and I'm likely buying new speakers at some point but for now this will play through my Altecs (which may or may not be here by the time that the amp arrives but that's another story) - that will be the subject of another thread and another question I suspect.

HELP!!!! I hate buying gear this way but I really have no other option since Seattle is 5 hours away and I seldom get over there on business any more, especially with enough time to do any critical listening.

Thanks as always. Dave
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 15420
Registered: Dec-04
Dave, without knowing the target speaker, I won't say boo.
Travel safe, brother in wings.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4021
Registered: May-05
Dave,

Great to hear from you again. It's been too long. Enough of the small talk...

In your shoes, I'd recommend looking into used stuff from Audiogon. If you find something for the right price, you can sell it for little to no loss. Hell, if you find a piece for a great price, you can even make a few bucks, but don't count on that.

NAD is a safe bet since you know it, but there's far better out there for the money. It all comes down to what type of sound you prefer.

There's a ton of great integrateds that can be found on Audiogon for under your budget. I bought a Bryston B60 about 3 years ago. I mention Bryston because it has a 20 year transferrable warranty. Anything goes wrong with it, send it to Vermont and get it fixed for free. I love my B60 and am off the amplification merry go round until maybe I move into a huge room and it's 60 watts won't cut it.

There's a Naim Nait 5 listed for $500 right now. That's a great deal IMO. If I had a spare $500 laying around, I'd snatch it up without thinking twice. I don't know the seller and haven't asked any questions, but its definitely worth looking in to IMO. They've sold for far more in the past.

You can also find Rega, Creek, Arcam, etc. integrateds for under budget. There is an Arcam dealer or two who are selling either refurbished or discontinued Arcam gear on Audiogon with full warranties.

I'm sure others will have some suggestions too.

What speakers are you looking into? That obviously changes things a bit.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1106
Registered: May-05
Nuck and Stu,

Thanks for all the help, Nuckster. I may come north just for the ribs after reading about another member's foray. But, I won't come north to pick your brain bro.

I'm all over the place on speakers. I'm considering Ascend's new towers if they're going to be released in the next couple of months or their current, upgraded Sierras. I'm also looking at Salksound's Songtowers, although they may be out of my price range. I may take a look at some speakers from a guy in Utah who does some funky looking speakers but they get rave reviews from several corners. Then, there's the usual suspects, maybe a pair of Paradigm Studio series (Studio 40s or 60s) or Monitor Audio (probably Silvers RX-6, because someone has them on sale for under $1000). I haven't thought about anything else except maybe keeping my Altec-Lansing Stonehenge IIs.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13249
Registered: Feb-05
Depending on the sound you are after I would look at a gently used Naim, Sim, Bryston or Arcam. If you really want to go with tubes and Prima Luna, the Prologue One sounds light years better than the Two. For hybrids consider Unison Research, they sound fantastic.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15276
Registered: May-04
.

http://www.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/cls.pl?intatube&1291087406&/McIntosh-MA230

If you only use it for five years, you'll still sell it for the same or more money. Read the October Stereophile review of the 50 year old MC275.


.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1107
Registered: May-05
Art and Jan,

Thanks for the additional information. Jan, you are bad. You must have known that I have always wanted to get a vintage Mac unit and the MA230 fits that bill. So, to add to my utter confusion, if I went in that direction, how would the Mac differ from my vintage Fisher X202 in performance and sound reproduction? And, I'll read the Stereophile article before I ask a bunch more questions.

Art I figured you would steer me to the PrimLuna, although the suggestion of the 1 over the 2 is interesting as most reviewers seem to prefer the 2. I'll need to do some more reading this weekend.

Also, in the realm of full disclosure, I went back and looked at what I paid for Arcam CD72 and I paid just under $700 shipped through Audiogon, although the guy told me he paid $2000 for it new, which I think is a huge stretch on his part (or he really got ripped off) but it was in like new condition when I received it and hasn't hiccuped in 3 plus years.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13250
Registered: Feb-05
Been awhile, I don't really like the Prima Luna amps, Dave. However the Prologue One was far less problematic than the Two. I know one store where they had 100% returns on the Prologue Two, not an endorsement. I think the Unison Research amps provide excellent value and they can often be found at excellent prices. Do some research on their Unico line of hybrid integrateds as they are very well though of.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1108
Registered: May-05
Art,

It has been too long and my memory sucks as I'm getting older. Didn't you have a PrimaLuna, Art, or am I mistaken and you fell in love with something else?

Jan, I know there's no "a" in McIntosh, don't hurt me, lol.

I'm kinda slobbering over that MA230 on Audiogon but I'll do a bunch more research. My thinking in getting away from the vintage tube gear was to open up the possibility for speaker selection since I'm not limited to 30wpc, even if they are tubes and they'll drive some of the more inefficient speakers.

My existing gear still sounds pretty decent and I'm really not into spending $2500 just for the sake of buying "something new" so I am looking to find something more in the gear. Maybe that's wishful thinking at this point or maybe I shouldn't be playing with the Fisher amp and I should be spending more on speakers, I hate not being able to walk in a store and A/B multiple options but L.A. is far behind me and Spokane is the audiophile desert.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13251
Registered: Feb-05
I had a Prima Luna and after months of wrestling with it and trying to get it to sound right for more than an evening I let it go for an all Rega system. Not because I was in love with the Rega stuff but because I felt that the pieces went together nicely and I wouldn't have to fuss with it much. Had that setup for more than 2 years before I changed anything but the turntable. I've been with my DeVore's and Sonneteer amp for more than a year (1 1/2 for the DeVore's) and would still have a Unison amp had I not stumbled into the Sonneteer at a price I couldn't refuse. The Unison amp left a very positive impression on me and that's the only reason I mentioned it.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1109
Registered: May-05
Ok, now I'm going crazy. I just read the post where James was looking for an integrated around €1000 and I'm hearing about all kinds of gear and he seems to be narrowing down to Rega and Nait and when he comes up with a free NAD C370 everyone says "go for it." GEEZ!!!

I found a Unico on Audiogon for $1000, Jan's McIntosh is still making ponder finally having one in the house and I'm still intrigued by other options.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dmitchell

Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Post Number: 4300
Registered: Feb-07
Art, was the Prima Luna you had a tube integrated? Not even sure if they make SS stuff. The reason I ask is that my local dealer, that carries brands like McIntosh and Bryston, tried out some Prima Luna stuff to give the option of accessible tube stuff, and they decided not to carry the line. The manager actually told me he had to leave the room when they were auditioning it.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13253
Registered: Feb-05
Yep, David it was a tube integrated. When it sounded right it was spooky good but usually it made me just want to leave the room. The spooky good was addictive enough to keep me trying for a few months but in the end it was not to be.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dmitchell

Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Post Number: 4301
Registered: Feb-07
What was it specifically that made you want to leave the room? I've never heard one.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13255
Registered: Feb-05
Brightness...an overwhelming edge or glare to the sound. I tried a whole bucket load of things to solve it.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dmitchell

Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Post Number: 4302
Registered: Feb-07
That's what I heard too. I guess a lot of people automatically assume a tube amp equals warmth.
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 782
Registered: Dec-06
Perhaps also consider an Exposure 2010s2?? Mine sounds fantastic after playing around with set up a bit. Highly detailed, clear, and transparent with lots of drive. I'd say there's a bit more emphasis on bass (to a small degree, not to the level of NAD say), however the highs can sound a little bright, so I'd keep that in mind when pairing with other gear. With my CD player and speakers it's not an issue, but I can hear a little glare with the highest highs in certain songs. I think my new speaker cables will help address that, based on a recommendation from a dealer who used to carry the Exposure line and an in store demo comparing the two cables.

The 2010s2 seems more highly regarded than those higher up in Exposure's roster (well, maybe not the MCX but that is super expensive). Supposedly it remains true to John Farlowe's original design. I wavered between it and an Audiolab 8000S for a while recently, but after getting set up optimized I realized that the Exposure is so much better than the 8000S, which seemed to put a haze over the music.

Speaking of Audiolab, their new 8200 line is supposed to be a big improvement over the 8000 line. I don't know his history, but John Westlake is involved in the design of the new gear and seems to have a pretty big following on some other forums (most notably Pinkfish). Lots of anticipation for the new line would be an understatement.

By the way, check out Upscale Audio if you are interested in a Unison Unico P. About $1K for a brand new unit.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1110
Registered: May-05
Dan,

Thanks, I looked at Upscale Audio this evening when I got home and noticed they had a new Unison Unico P on sale and a demo Unico in the store. I've looked at several reviews of both units and they look interesting, especially the Unico.

Then, my wife went downstairs about 9:00 p.m. and turned on our 4 year old 50" Plasma. She said the screen went light after about 30 seconds, then the screen went black and the power light turned off. I tried to turn it on and no luck. Funky, burning smell starts emanating from it. Looks like a dead Plasma TV.

Obviously, the stereo gods hate me right now. So, tomorrow, I go off to buy a new big screen and there goes about $2000 or so; otherwise know as most of my budget for new stereo gear. So, do you think my wife did it on purpose? LOL

So, I guess the Fisher and Altecs stay put for another year or so unless you guys find me a 40 year old neurosurgeon who gets hit by Costco/Apple/Starbucks/Wal-Mart truck and sustains fairly serious but not too really serious injuries. (I'm not that cruel) You know, off work for a year and a couple broken bones. Just start throwing my business cards at him, please.

Thanks for all the help guys . . . . to be continued whenever . . . .
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4024
Registered: May-05
Dak,

You need one of those great commercials with a catchy song and phone number. Here's a real good stuck in my head

Got your neck broke in a crash you didn't provoke?
Call 1-800-Victim-2
Risking your life for a living, when you fall
Call 1-800-Victim-2

The commercials and dong are pretty bad. Maybe YouTube has the commercial. It's usually on every commercial break during the "Morning Mayhem" - Maury back to back, followed by Jerry Springer.

I bet those types of commercials will get you a couple of new full McIntosh systems to go in a nice new estate! Just forget about class and respectability.

Please don't take that stuff the wrong way. I'm laughing with you.
 

New member
Username: Don_jr

Perinton, NY USA

Post Number: 3
Registered: Oct-09
Can't the TV be fixed? It's only 4 years old. That's not much of a life expectancy. Have the plasma fixed and check into a used Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum. I bought one used on Agon after selling one month old Rotel gear that sounded so bad it scares me to think about it. Bought the Rogue on Agon and have no looked back.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13257
Registered: Feb-05
The Unico P is nice, I owned one. Move one model up and they get even better. The Unico P was only beat out by just a bit by my 3k Sonneteer.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1111
Registered: May-05
Well Stu, I'm laughing with you, too. It's kinda catchy.

Don, you are correct but it gets even better. I hunted down the receipt. I was fairly certain I bought it at Costco but wasn't absolutely sure because I knew I found it cheaper online but it's been almost 5 years. Sure enough, there was my Costco receipt. I paid a bunch of money 5 years ago for it, took the dead Plasma to Costco. They issue a full refund including tax. I end up buying a much better, larger 55" LCD LED 1080p TV and Costco still owes me money, WOW!!!

The stereo gods are back on my side, go figure. Then, I check my email and learn that my bid on the 9/10 Unico was accepted. So, now I have another integrated to check out and see how it stacks up to the Fisher. I feel like I hit the lottery or, at least, the not so badly injured 40 year neurosurgeon, LOL. That was for you Stu.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 15423
Registered: Dec-04
Costco is a great deal for warranty.
Pigman is dead sure that he can return darn near anything that fails with no warranty expiration.

Thats a fortuitous run of events, Dave, and good shopping!!
 

New member
Username: Don_jr

Perinton, NY USA

Post Number: 4
Registered: Oct-09
Now that is some great news. Happy listening. Please let us know how the Unison fairs against the Fisher.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1112
Registered: May-05
Well, thanks guys as always for your input and your willingness to share and expand my horizens. Frankly, I had never heard of the Unison Research group and the reviews I've read and your comments swayed me considerably. As much as I would like a vintage McIntosh and I know the sound from listening to them in my youth, I was really looking to try something different. What impressed me with the Unico was the hybrid aspect with SS to drive a little more power and the dynamics while keeping the tubes in play to tame some of the SS issues that can arise. We'll see how it does because I will A/B directly with the Fisher just to see if I've bought an upgrade or just moved laterally. At the price I paid, I'm very satisfied and I shouldn't lose much if anything if I have to sell it.

If it sounds as good as your guys' reviews, I should be really happy and I'll have made another step in the old upgrade process. Next on the list will be speakers at some point.

The only downside, and it's not much of one, is that the guy didn't have the "pretty" dark wood original remote but given the price, I can't complain. I'll report more when it arrives. Thanks again guys, Dave
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13266
Registered: Feb-05
Congrats on the Unison, Dave. I hope it meets your needs. If not it shouldn't be too difficult to move.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4028
Registered: May-05
Congrats, Dave. The Unico is a great integrated amp. Its one that doesn't get discussed and suggested nearly as much as it should IMO.

The wooden remote is very cool. Sucks he didn't have that one. Maybe it's a motivator to get a nice Harmony universal? I have one I bough on clearence and highly recommend them. Even my wife knows how to use everything with it. Not that she does, but just knowing that she can goes a long way.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1113
Registered: May-05
Stu,

The Harmony probably won't work. Apparently, the remote is not infrared, it's radio wave operated. Not many remotes out there that use them but he says it's coming with a remote so we'll see if it works. Thanks, Dave
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1115
Registered: May-05
Hello All,

Well, the Unison Research Unico showed up and boy is it a beast. It's probably close to 50 lbs. and very pretty. It is easily in 9/10 condidtion as advertised and looks really nice below by Arcam CD-92, not CD-72 as previously advertised.

I've let it play with all kinds of music and I've noticed several things in relation to the Fisher X202 integrated it replaced. First, it throws a soundstage where the Fisher threw almost none. The Fisher gave me nice sounds, especially for its $400 price of admission. However, those sounds emanated directly from the speakers, stayed right in front of me and offered no real glimpse of where people, instruments, music and voice were coming from. So, I now have a better appreciation for the whole "soundstage" concept.

So, that's interesting but if the music and voices don't sound better, what's the point, right? Well, I can say that everything sounds better, although it took me some time to realize how much "warmth" the Fisher imparted to the music. Unfortunately, that warmth came at the expense of accuracy, discrete sounds and separation. The old Altecs always sounded kind of muddy under the Fisher amp and I always blamed the Altecs. Now, the muddiness is gone and, at first, I thought the Altecs now sound a little bright. I know, I know, Altecs never sound bright but that was my initial impression because the sound was so different. After some critical listening and trying about 15 different CDs, there was no listener fatigue. That's when I realized, the Altecs weren't sounding "bright", they were simply producing a more accurate musical presentation. Piano key strikes and guitar plucks were separated, instruments were differentiated and muddiness disappeared.

So, now I ask myself if this amp makes the Altecs sound better, do I hang on to the Altecs or do I venture further down the upgrade road and start looking at speakers? (I must admit I was kinda rooting for the Fisher amp because I was afraid that if the Unico improved the sound of the Altecs, I would recognize that I just "improved" my musical enjoyment and I would be left wondering if there was more to be had with new speakers.)

The Altec-Lansing Stonehenge IIs were decent speakers in their day but they were not considered one of Altecs better works. They were replaced a few years later by the Stonehenge IIIs, which are still considered to be one of Altecs better efforts in the mid-fi range. So, I now have better sound than I had without question but I'm left with that always fatal question, where do I go from here? More comments appreciated but let's not spend any more of my hard-earned money just yet.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1116
Registered: May-05
Forgot to add, the Unico came with a Unison Research remote and it works with the amp, even if it isn't the pretty wood one. The seller was incredibly straightforward and the price was very fair including shipping.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 15438
Registered: Dec-04
Dacks, just sit tight and enjoy lots of different music for a while.
It is difficult to have a proper perspective for comparisons sakes based on a too short exposure.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13298
Registered: Feb-05
Agreed, just enjoy the music for awhile.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4032
Registered: May-05
Thirded. Enjoy what you've got. Get used to the sound - what it's doing well and what can be improved. Play a bit with speaker placement and room acoustics.
 

Gold Member
Username: Magfan

USA

Post Number: 1673
Registered: Oct-07
Dakulls, many bigscreen TVs are a PIA for the manufacturers.
I know of at least a few class action lawsuits.....Sony projection LCD comes to mind, and many many hassles with DLP.....Color wheel and all the rest.

You're my HERO dodging all that! Best with your new LCD!
LED backlit, right?
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15343
Registered: May-04
.

I wouldn't suggest using soundstaging or imaging as your basis for a judgement up or down on the Altecs. That is not what they are going to do, it's really that simple. However, you should, in fairness to the Altecs, take away that aspect of comparing apples to oranges - particularly if the orange is something you only hold in your mind as some unstated, enigmatic ideal which might never be reached.

Play some mono material through the Altecs and listen for those values which are of prime importance to your enjoyment of the music. Play a full blown symphony and pay attention to whether you are distracted away from the music or absorbed into it. When the hifi aspects of sound reproduction are removed you must face the reality of how does the music sound.

Certainly, if you've never really thought about how recorded music should be reproduced in your room, then now's the time to begin formulating those priorities. A new toy typically means many hours and weeks spent listening for what the new component can do and often forgetting what the music must do. It's difficult to remove that critical ear for the equipment and return to simply enjoying the music. If you are not enjoying the music as much as you feel you might or as you feel you should from your last experience with live music, then you have two issues to deal with.

First, how accurate are your impessions of live music? Have you become accustomed to the hifi framing your system imposes on the music. Could the window use a little cleaning? If so, then you need to refresh your memory of the real thing before you can make valid comparisons which will cost money. Second, IMO the advances made in home audio speakers has been quite impressive over the last decade and one half. Very few vintage speakers hold up against a comparison to live music as will vintage electronics. There are a few which are classics and possibly, if at all possible, a comparison to a Quad 57 or a LS35/a might be enlightening. Unfortunately, I also feel too much has been made over the last two decades of those values which are inconsequential to the music.

"A Comparison
I compared the PSB Image B6 ($495) with the Epos ELS3 ($295), the Epos M5 ($695), and the Nola Mini ($600). (All prices per pair, as of when last offered.)

The Epos ELS3 shared with the PSB its silky, neutral, and detailed midrange, but I found the Epos's highs to be more delicate and refined. However, the ELS3's bass was much less extended, and the PSB was far better at high-level dynamic bloom in loud passages.

The Nola Mini shared its midrange characteristics with the two speakers mentioned above, but its bass seemed the deepest of the three, with much more effortless gut-slamming of high-level dynamics. However, compared with both the PSB and the Epos ELS3, the Nola had some high-frequency roughness in upper-register passages.

The Epos M5 shared the positive midrange attributes of the other three speakers, but with a bit more resolution of detail--the M5 made it much easier to follow individual voicings in solo-piano recordings, for example. The M5's highs were as refined as the Epos ELS3's, and therefore a bit more natural than the PSB Image B6's. Finally, I found the Epos M5's midbass to be cleaner than the PSB's but the Nola Mini was the best of the lot in terms of effortless, high-level dynamic bloom."
http://stereophile.com/standloudspeakers/psb_image_b6_loudspeaker/index1.html



Is that sort of information really useful? To me it ceased to be of value years ago. "Speakers are not the same", should be the only thing written in a comparison of models.



Establish your priorities, Dak. If you don't have a list of at least three priorities which you can call off the top of your head, then you need to establish a base from which to operate. The only way to do that IMO is to refamiliarize yourself with the real thing until you have those values set. Then begin the audition process. If your priorities are about the music and not the hifi, you'll be able to tell quite rapidly where the Altecs rank. In their favor, if you can manage to strip the hifi distractions from the issues of musical involvement and enjoyment, you should find vintage speaker designers had little to hide behind and the music was all they could work with. Still, does a vocalist sound as they should? Does the rhythm section stand as a foundation to the ebb and flow of the musical event? Are the nuances of a performer's style clearly indicated through the playback system? Not, can you hear the guitarist's fingers sliding on strings? Close mic'ing or direct injection to the mixing board takes care of that. But rather can you hear the dynamic timing shifts and musical inflections of the performer and the tensions and resolutions implied by those characteristics? Those are a few questions you might ask yourself - at the live performance first however. Know just what to expect and do not idealize the music. Do not judge the music as if it were a hifi. If you can say with certainty this product is more transparent to the original event, then you have made a decision no matter how long the process takes. Just do not become paralyzed with inaction until the Altecs force a decision to be made in a weekend's time.


.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1119
Registered: May-05
First Leo,

LCD, LED backlit is correct. Can't really say I "dogged it" much because Costco was incredibly easy to work with on this.

Now, to Nuck, Art, Stu and Jan, I am doing a bunch of listening. I've spent probably 20 hours with the Unico since it arrived, played with the speaker set-up and moved through about a third of my CDs, using the ones that I am most familiar with and those that I know will test different aspects of the speakers.

But Jan thanks for reminding me that the most important thing is still whether it sounds like the real thing and whether engages me like live music. Interesting that you should raise that because it takes me back to that rather long string you started "What do you hear?" or something like that. So, I have listened to several CDs I have solely because I have both the stereo and mono recordings. I plan another extended listening session this weekend and then I'll report some more.

I can tell you now that the Unico has drastically changed what I'm hearing but I'll do some more listening before I say more and I'm taking some notes because some of what I'm hearing is a little strange and not what I expected.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15357
Registered: May-04
.

" ... it takes me back to that rather long string you started "What do you hear?" or something like that."


"Do you listen?" as I remember it - and most people don't or at least not enough.

I would consider the Unico a major upgrade from the old amplifier. If some of what you're hearing is "strange", then it's probably time to get back in touch with live music. From there you can better determine whether the "strangeness" is a more transparent view into the music or a more correct view of the recording process. Or, something entirely unique to the combination of speaker/amplifier/room.

.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1120
Registered: May-05
Ok guys,

Here's what I've heard and, no, this isn't going to be a flowery review type of post. Mostly, just the facts as I heard them.

I listened to a broad range of classical, classic rock, some electronic rock, jazz, and country. Sorry, I dont' do punk or anything similar.

Jazz and classic rock (usually 2 guitars, bass guitar and drums) - the Altecs did a nice job in the midrange with voices and guitars and piano. I know these CDs really well so I was engaged but the more I listened the more I noticed that although the music sounded good, it didn't sound "real". As a check, I asked my wife to come in and listen because she hears a lot of piano and strings in her wanderings. She said it sounded "nice" and I asked if it sounded like live music and she said "no". She noted that the instruments sounded "thin" and when there was a lot going on, it sounded all mixed up together. More on that in a second. Generally, I agreed with her although I would describe it differently.

When I put electronic rock on (either new age rock or pieces like the first several cuts on Dark Side of the Moon), the Altecs were not very engaging. Instead of sounding like separate instruments, you got a cacophony of sound, not necessarily wholly bad sound but the instruments were all mixed together. Large orchestral pieces, Mozart, Stravinsky or Mars on Holst's "The Planets" sounded ok but you simply could not describe it as anything like a live orchestra sound. I've spent a fair amount of time lately listening to smaller chamber pieces and larger orchestra pieces and there simply isn't the same sounds coming from the speakers.

I thought the speakers would do much better playing country in stereo and classic rock in mono so I tried a couple or Elvis Sun Records recordings (2 recommended by Jan along time ago) and a Johnny Cash mono and the Beatles remastered 5 album set, which also have the mono recordings. Again, the sounds weren't bad at all but they weren't "live" sounding at all. The voices were nice, the guitars didn't sound like true guitars; they were off although I can't really explain it. The drums and cymbals sounded better. I was really disappointed with their performance when playing Johnny Cash's stuff as it all sounded like he was in a small tunnel and the instruments were forward of his voice, which didn't sound right at all.

If I had to grade these speakers - they would probably get a C+/B- when playing classic rock, country or jazz. They would get D ratings for any orchestral pieces or rock that was using electronics.

This was a very interesting process because it made me realize that part of my enjoyment of this system for the past 7 years or so resulted from the Fisher amp, which is anything but accurate but it gave off that "warm" tube sound and mated to the "warm" sounding Altecs, it was like listening to stereo that I grew up with so it was engaging; it just isn't very "real" when compared to live music.

Now, I don't want anyone to get the impression that listening sessions are painful, they're not. I am still enjoying listening to music. It still causes my toes to tap and my head to sway but I'm realizing that the enjoyment has more to do with my inherent connection with music and not the accuracy of that music. I'm not sure that's a bad thing at all but, it does tell me that there may be more out there in the way of an upgrade.

Don't worry, I'm still listening and I'm reading about some speakers. I spent a little time at our only "audio" store in Spokane, Huppin's One Call, and listened to several speakers in their $1000 to $2400 monitor and floorstander range, which is about where they top out. I took 3 CDs that I know fairly well and I wasn't overwhelmed by anything from KEF, Klipsch or Boston Accoustics. Unfortunately, it was only about a 15-20 minute listening session as the wife and I had to be somewhere and it wasn't long enough to judge. I noticed they have some Epos on their website and I would like to hear them. They also carry Martin-Logan, which I don't know much about except they were playing a $2200/pair set in their home theatre room and my Altecs sounded better, LOL. (If anyone would be kind enough to take a look at their website and tell me what's there that you've heard and liked, it would be much easier to narrow as their listening room has about 50-60 pairs of speakers, including in ceiling, so it's fairly difficult to just start listeing to pairs. (By the way, this is new for them as they now have a fairly large internet presence so they have dramatically expanded their speaker offerings, WHO KNEW?

So, by all means weigh in, I am on the hunt.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15367
Registered: May-04
.

http://brinesacoustics.com/

Highly recommended from personal experience.


.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13333
Registered: Feb-05
I have some DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 8's for sale. I know they mate well with Unison. They are in excellent condition. See the Audiogon ad.

http://cgi.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/cl.pl?spkrfull&1292366387&item
 

Silver Member
Username: Kevincorr

Fairbanks, Alaska Usa

Post Number: 724
Registered: Jul-07
Art-I would surely go for the Gibbons if I wanted a divorce ;)
Super deal, but then I would have to get that Naim amp I have coveted...(or Bryston....etc).
 

Gold Member
Username: Magfan

USA

Post Number: 1699
Registered: Oct-07
Duk,
I suggested you 'dodged' it not 'dogged' it! 2 way different things.

I said dodged, as in 'dodged a bullet' because sometimes things just seem to spiral out of control. That Costco treated you well is a good thing. I've had good experiences there, too.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13335
Registered: Feb-05
No messin' up the domestic bliss, Kevin. I would love to see them go to a good home rather than just a stranger but either way I must sell them. I've already started to move furniture that has lived in the garage for a couple of years back into the living room and needless to say my wife is pleased. She is also loving the new upgrades to her system. In fact we are listening to her setup right now.
 

Silver Member
Username: Kevincorr

Fairbanks, Alaska Usa

Post Number: 727
Registered: Jul-07
Priorities. We are getting this house back that has been leased out for 18 years! It needs a LOT of work, both remodeling and energy saving retrofit. All my money will go for that. I will work on it for 5 months before moving in!

You could always send the speakers to me and I can pay you in a few years, really I would. I know I am the only one here who would go for that ;)
 

Gold Member
Username: Magfan

USA

Post Number: 1702
Registered: Oct-07
Art, that ribbon Mahogony is like what I bought for my woodshop project. I took a small sample home and did some finish tests....the oiled finishes are Spectacular.
I especially love the bookmatch speaker baffles.......Man, they spent some time and effort making them look 1st class.....

When I reframe my panels, I'll use ribbon Sipo. (a kind of Mahogany)
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1121
Registered: May-05
Hello All,

I just came up for air after doing a bunch of research on speakers last night and a couple of meetings in the office today. I appreciate the feedback on speakers. Those are very pretty speakers, Art, and I suspect that they sound as nice as they look. Unfortunately, they would have to be much darker wood to pass the wife approval factor, as most of our wood is very dark. Nevertheless, I will have to do some reading about them this evening.

You may recall that I posted almost a year ago about looking at speakers so I had done some research and narrowed it down to about 3-5 speakers that interested me. As I did more reading and talked to some people in the AudioCircle forum, I had fallen in love with Jim Salk's SongTowers. I caught up on all the online reviews and reread a bunch of previous reviews. I think I'm still in love with those speakers. Having talked to Jim Salk, I was impressed with his attitude and customer approach and he told me that if I order the standard veneers, I have 30 days to evaluate them and see if I like em. If not, I can return them with no questions asked. So, I leaning that direction.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13338
Registered: Feb-05
The Salks are very nice and come well recommended.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 15485
Registered: Dec-04
Link us a nice pic Dacks?
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13341
Registered: Feb-05
http://www.salksound.com/songtower%20home.htm

Google is your friend.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1122
Registered: May-05
Here's the gallery and I'm looking at the walnut, stained even a darker tone.

http://www.salksound.com/songtower%20images.htm
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1123
Registered: May-05
Great, mine didn't link. So, use Art's link, go to the top in Galleries and select SongTower.

Art, I've read several reviews on your speakers. DANG, very impressive. I hope you sell them quickly then I won't have second thoughts about em.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15379
Registered: May-04
.

Just my $0.02 worth.

https://www.madisound.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=8180

http://www.ellisaudio.com/hiquphon.htm

$300 for off the shelf drivers when purchased in bulk.

I usually don't say much about pricing - a product is worth what someone is willing to pay IMO - and the designer is using some nice parts here. There's a price to be paid for design effort but King's CAD design templates are freeware. $2k for a two way system from an online company seems a bit out of line to me. $2k from a company like Harbeth with proprietary drivers I have no problem with since you're going through a brick and mortar retailer who has to make their own profit.

If you like the speaker, Dak, and you think it's worth the money, then buy the speaker. However, you might keep in mind who might want to buy this speaker in a few years and how much they might pay at that point. This sort of product is IMO like buying a modified car. You may have a blast with that customized Lotus but, will you have to take a bath to move it along to the next owner?


Like I said, I'm not saying don't buy this speaker, just consider what you'll have in the real world and what alternatives you might have.



.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1124
Registered: May-05
I've been watching the Salksound speakers for well over three years now, although I got really serious about a year ago. On the rare occasions when I've found them on Audiogon or elsewhere, they've sold before I could get a bid in on them. Moreover, Jim Salk will assist you in reselling the speakers on his site, especially if you're upgrading. After reading about 5-10 reviews of his speakers and 4 or more for the SongTowers, I'm willing to take a chance. Two of the reviewers ended up buying a set of the speakers after the review. One of the reviewers compared them favorably to speakers costing 2-3 times more from several of the speaker manufacturers that get raves from many of the folks here and professional reviewers. Finally, Jim Salk's willingness to meet my lovely wife's particular requirements for finish color made the deal final. So, I've ordered the SongTowers and I'll report when they get here, which is about 45 days out.

Here are some links for anyone that's just got to know more, LOL.

http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/0408/stalk_signature_songtower.h tm

http://www.audioholics.com/reviews/speakers/floorstanding/salk-songtower-qwt

http://www.sonicflare.com/archives/salk-signature-sound-song-tower-review.php

I have more but that should whet your curiousity.

Jan, I know that you know that the price of the components alone cannot and does not reflect the quality of what comes out of the speaker. If so, a monkey with a large credit limit could purchase the highest dollar components and create the world's greatest speaker. I've read enough to understand that Jim Salk's crossover guy, Dennis Murphy, is well regarded as "one of the best in the business" so that says something for how Salk Sound approaches speaker building and design. Also, I looked at Tyler Acoustics, who happens to use many of the same higher quality components, and most of the criticism aimed at his speakers had to do with crossover issues.

I haven't heard these speakers yet so I'm not inclined to knight them or king them, or whatever, just yet. But, I knew that what I found locally wasn't doing it for me. I felt like there were enough good reviews, including from people who tried multiple speaker sets before settling on these, that it was worth the less than $2000 investment. If they really don't do it for me, Jim Salk says send em back within thirty (30) days for your money back and I will.

But, I wanted to try something a little different than the same old suspects, although I also know that you seldom recommend speakers, preferring to let people listen and purchase what sounds good to them. That's really the direction I'm going, given the limitations in Spokane to what I can listen to here.

As you know, I placed a pair of Tim's Lings in a friend's set-up that I put together for her and but for taking a little risk and Tim being kind enough to share, those very nice little speakers would never have gotten a listen by me or her. So, once again, I'm taking the plunge, I'll let you guys know whether I hit water or someone emptied to pool when I left the diving board.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 15492
Registered: Dec-04
Thanks Dax.

Nice write up on you thinking on the Salk's.
Now for some listening??

I support your thinking outside the zone, Dave, Kudos!!!!

Great reads on the speakers!
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13357
Registered: Feb-05
I look forward to your report, Dave.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1126
Registered: May-05
Art,

I've now had the chance to read several reviews for the Gibbons you put on Audiogon. I suspect they will sell quickly as the reviews note that they do so many things well. I just wish I could put them to use in my place but my wife really has her mind set on a darker colored wood and part of the deal here is making her happy with what sits in her living room. I am certain that you won't have to wait long for them to sell given the stellar reviews and the fact that they play nice with tubes and solid state. Very cool babies those are!!!

Nuck, thanks and will do. Unfortunately, because of build time, they're likely going to show just about in time for Christmas, which ain't that bad I guess.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13361
Registered: Feb-05
Jingle bells!
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 15514
Registered: Dec-04
Write to Santa?
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1127
Registered: May-05
Nuck,

I'm writing Santa Jim fairly often and hoping that he doesn't have an elf put a fist through my speakers. LOL
 

Gold Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 1060
Registered: Jul-07
"The SongTower design, like all of our speakers, began with an emphasis on accuracy and detail in the midrange. This is where 80 percent of the information is contained both in music and home theater. If it doesn't happen in the midrange, it will simply never be a great design. While important, top end transparency and bottom end extension are just icing on the cake."

That's a good start. I hope you like them Dakulis.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1128
Registered: May-05
Chris,

I'm just hoping they deliver most of what all the reviews say.
 

Gold Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 1061
Registered: Jul-07
I hope they're to your liking. I've had the same problem in the past.....ie not able to find what I'm looking for locally. Luckily I travel a bit so I try to listen to as much gear as I can when I'm away.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 15523
Registered: Dec-04
shop here?

http://live.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/ces.pl?&&ManuList&&&&&&&RMF10
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1129
Registered: May-05
Chris,

I travel a fair amount but unfortunately they're mostly day trips so I'm never there long enough to find an audio shop and listen. I should just take the wife to Seattle for a long weekend and play in a couple places although my experience in one of the shops in Bellevue was horrible. Stood around, listened to a couple things, sales guys ignored me, I got frustrated and said, "you know, I came in here with the possibility that I might spend $2000 or so but it isn't going to happen here" and I wandered out. Not quite like the experience Art seems to have in Eugene.

Nuck, I looked at the link and that narrows it down to just a few thousand speaker manufacturers, LOL.
 

Gold Member
Username: Magfan

USA

Post Number: 1750
Registered: Oct-07
Audio stores can be that way. I had a similar experience a LONG time ago at a very very....posh store up in Orange county.
I think they ran by appointment, so you may give that a try. Call, tell 'em you're coming and what you are interested in. If the reception is NO better, than bad mouth them and name-names.

My current favorite is nice. Somebody will catch you a few minutes after you enter and ask if you need help. If NO, than 'feel free to listen...and if you'd like something demo'd just ask'.....\
No heat and a pretty knowledgeable bunch.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1132
Registered: May-05
Leo,

I used to live in L.A., Orange Co. and San Bernadino Co. so I recall what it could be like when stores actually care. Unfortunately, Huppins is our only store, it seems to be doing well with its online store and it's customer service sucks in the retail outlet. I guess I could always go to Best Buy, I'm sure they have some great speakers. LOL.

Back on the amp subject, it seems that the Unico is getting better with some play time. I got a much better recording of The Rite of Spring and Firebird Suite and it sounded pretty dang good, even with the poor Altecs messing with the more complicated instrumentation. Still fun to listen to but very much looking forward to the Salks, only another month or so.
 

Gold Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 1086
Registered: Jul-07
Another month ? Bummer.
 

Gold Member
Username: Magfan

USA

Post Number: 1784
Registered: Oct-07
Dak,
too bad when you lived in SoCal you didn't go a little further south to SanDiego. We've got a few nice places here, too. One in particular has at least 8 rooms. I would not venture a guess at the value of stocked inventory. Naim, ARC, Krell, B&W, Magnepan and MORE.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1133
Registered: May-05
Ok guys,

I realize it's already a done deal and the Unison Research Unico is already up, running and making me pretty dang happy. But, I've already found my next amp. I know, I know, live with this new system awhile and see what it does with the new SongTowers.

Well, in case you're interested anyway, this is going to be my next amp. Amazingly, it looks an awful lot like the Unico.

http://www.underwoodhifi.com/mod_unison.html

http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/unison2/unico.html

I found this last night and I'm already started on saving my pennies. So, I guess I'm eating lunch in the rest of this year and next and then begging the wife again. LOL
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13386
Registered: Feb-05
Go get 'em Daks!
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1135
Registered: May-05
Thanks Art,

I need all the encouragement I can get. Do you think flowers or candy works better on the wife? LOL
 

Gold Member
Username: Dmitchell

Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Post Number: 4414
Registered: Feb-07
Flowers or candy? I wish. My wife prefers shoes or purses. My last McIntosh amp cost me a Coach purse.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1136
Registered: May-05
David,

All I can say is ouch!!! Fortunately, the wife isn't in to purses, shoes or jewelry. Clothes and furniture are a whole different story.

Anybody have any thoughts on the mods for the Unico? Likely improvement or complete snake oil? What do you think?
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13392
Registered: Feb-05
Flowers or Candy? Neither. My wife works in the same office I do and has 10 years senoirty so she earns about 10% more than I do. Our take home is within $100 of each other. At 12 yrs I have the most senoirity in my work group and at 22 yrs she has the second least in her group. I'm usually the social worker in charge when the boss is out (it's all very odd isn't it). I don't tell her what to buy and she doesn't tell me. We discuss these purchases and their is the occasional raised eyebrow but that's about it.

I'm not a big fan of mods. Underwood has a decent reputation and they most likely do improve some elements of performance. I just feel that the balance of the original design is thrown off and all performance parameters not given equal consideration. When I spoke to the folks in charge of Unison in Italy that seemed important to them. Never know until you try, I suppose

I have a modded Rotel CD player and it sounds good (actually my wife has it), better than stock, but I probably wouldn't do it again.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1137
Registered: May-05
Art,

Thanks for the wise words on the wife, life and modding the amp.

I've also heard good things about Underwood and several people swear by their mods to their cheap tube amps. The 6 moon review is pretty dang impressive. I'll just keep saving my pennies and see what happens when I get enough to consider it. At that point the new speakers will be broken in well and I'll either love what I'm hearing and be done for awhile or be exploring whether improving the amp, cd player or speakers takes me to the next level.

Ain't this hobby fun.

Now, the curiousity, Art, you selling or sold the De Vores? What are you replacing them with now?
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4090
Registered: May-05
I've heard good things about Underwood, but that's coming from customers. If they weren't happy, would they admit it? They can't return the stuff or have the mods undone.

Before any mods, I'd get everything together and get usd to what everything's doing. That way you'll truly know if they're worth your time, and/or what the mods did.
 

Gold Member
Username: Magfan

USA

Post Number: 1805
Registered: Oct-07
I've told people who want to mod / tweak near-new panel speakers something similar.
Give it hundred(s) of hours to settle in before doing any of the common mods... Remove fuse, or remove modify jumpers, for example.
Those would appear to be no-brainers, but the more extreme moves of hardwood reframe and various stands and crossover mods are a little more....risky.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13396
Registered: Feb-05
The Gibbons did sell...so...

The living room is back to being just that. A small home theater is there which my wife likes and in place of my main rig is a comfortable chair, ottoman, table and lamp. The living room is for living again and we are all pleased. My 9x10 home office now houses my dedicated 2 channel system and so a new speaker was called for, one that is just right for the room and my listening preferences. Enter the Harbeth P3ESR. So far I really love this speaker. I have nothing but great things to say about them, my favorite speaker yet. They are definitely the anti-Nuck...lol!
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1138
Registered: May-05
Art,

Read a couple of reviews of the Harbeths; sounds like they hit a home run in the mini-monitor category, especially perfect for a smaller room like you're in now. I'll be interested in a more detailed review once they're broken in and you've had some time with them.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1139
Registered: May-05
Leo,

Don't worry, I'm not thinking about modding the new speakers. I'm thinking about modding the Unico amp somewhere down the road but that's a long ways off, if at all.
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