Stranger High Fidelity Complete Systems
I love chatting about music and audio and studios and hifi, and I love creating a setup that is tuned to the individual, so please don’t hesitate to give me a call on 07702 155847 to discuss your requirements. Or email me. We can then organise a Zoom call so that I get a better idea of your room and tastes. If you need any advice on specific aspects of your system I’m very happy to help.
Everyone is different when it comes to listening to music, and there are countless ways of putting together a system that will satisfy those needs. I decided to think about some suggestions after my music loving brother asked me to put together something “with no boxes and no cables, and ideally that I can’t see, but which sounds fantastic”. The very minimal Setup 1 was the result. OK there have to be a few cables but it’s great, and looks fantastic.
The super stylish MBL components are something you want to have on show. They really are beautiful and sound wonderful. Then there is a suggestion for the vinyl fan and one for the ultimate in digital.
For those not so familiar with hifi I’ll just clear up a few terms that crop up regularly. For those others who know a thing or two then please skip forward.
We’re all familiar with turntables and CD players. The only thing I need to say here is about the DS Audio cartridge (and stylus or needle) that I use. This uses a totally different technology from the usual moving magnet or moving coil cartridges. DS Audio uses light to read the grooves of the record. It is fully analogue but eliminates the need for magnets and coils and allows it to reproduce every element of musical information. The cartridges come with their own power supply/equaliser so you don’t need a separate phono stage (a form of amplifier).
The one example of a turntable below is very expensive but there are models to suit all budgets. Get in touch.
Streaming can be somewhat confusing in the hifi world. It’s simple enough on your phone when you just open up Spotify or Tidal and press play. In the hifi world you need that app to sit somewhere and this will be on a standalone ‘streamer’ or a computer or a server (which is really just a computer). You still use a handheld device as the remote control, but all the heavy lifting is being done in the computer, not on your handheld device. in the examples below there are four different streamers
- The Novafidelity X45. A one box streamer, but also with other inputs.
- Roon Nucleus. A server (computer)
- Mac Mini. A computer
- CAD CAT. A high end server
- Bricasti M3. A Streamer, DAC and preamp.
In all cases you can use either Tidal or Qobuz as your streaming service. With the X45 you can also use Deezer, Napster and Amazon Music.
Roon is very popular in the audiophile world. It is an app that collates all your music in one place, in a very elegant, extremely simple software app. It connects to Qobuz and Tidal and also to any stored music files you may have.
There are essentially 3 types of amplifier – preamp, power amp and integrated amp. An integrated amp is a combination of the first two types.
However there are also ‘active’ speakers like the Dutch&Dutch 8C. This is a type of speaker that has a power amp built in. With active speakers you need a preamplifer.
System 1. Simple, minimal, elegant. £12,999
Essentially a one box system, the hugely versatile Novafidelity X45, and the staggering Dutch & Dutch 8C loudspeakers. For those people who don’t want a lot of separates. You could even put the X45 in a cupboard and forget about it, although it’s a great looking thing with a 7” front screen. Use the Music X Neo app on your tablet, or use Roon if you prefer.
It streams from your favourite service, it’s a CD player, it automatically rips your CDs to the internal hard drive, and you can add a turntable. You can even rip your vinyl to the internal hard drive in high resolution.
The Dutch & Dutch 8C is designed to fit perfectly into the acoustics of your room. They can be placed very close to the wall behind them. The Waveguide tweeter, Acoustic Cardioid Midrange and Active Room Matching technology enable the 8C’s to adapt to the acoustics.
If streaming is your preferred source then an even more minimal approach would be the 8C’s and the beautiful little Bricasti M5 Roon ready renderer £13,649
Dutch and Dutch 8C
System 2. Simple, minimal, elegant, upgraded by Scott Berry £24,284
This is a system I came up with after consulting Scott Berry from CAD. Still based around the Dutch & Dutch 8C speakers this one has at its heart the CAD 1543 DAC and Roon. Again this can be hidden, although it would be a shame not see the beautiful CAD 1543 and GC1 Ground Control.
CAD 1543 DAC
CAD USB II cable
SOTM SMS200 Roon endpoint
Mac Mini running Roon Core
Dutch & Dutch 8C loudspeakers
Upgrade with an Aesthetix valve preamplifier and choice of turntable.
System 3. The MBL experience. Noble Line £32,340. Cadenza Line £21,480
You’re definitely not putting this in a cupboard. The beautiful MBL components and ‘Radialstrahler’ loudspeakers are the centrepiece of a stunning setup. What is ‘Radialstrahler’? Well, we experience “live sound” as a blend of direct and reflected sounds. MBL speakers uniquely create a similar sound field that we perceive as balanced in frequency and natural in time. Just as if listening to instruments in an orchestra, club or concert, they mimic the inherent natural blend of direct and reflected sound. With a true 360º radiation pattern, the MBL Radialstrahler provides a realistic aural and emotional experience. Designer Juergen Reis is a genius,
MBL N31 CD/DAC/Streamer
MBL N51 Integrated Amplifier
MBL 126 Radialstrahler Loudspeakers
System 4. The Vinyl Lover (who streams) £33,615
This is my own vinyl setup. I teamed up the gorgeous Clearaudio Innovation turntable with the innovative DS Audio E1 Optical cartridge. Amplification is the integrated hybrid Aesthetix Mimas amplifier teamed with Kerr K320 loudspeakers. Streaming is from the Roon Nucleus and DAC option on the Aesthetix.
Everyone who comes to my studio always makes directly for the Innovation. It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of engineering you will find anywhere. Sometimes I just stand and look at it! The DS optical cartridge is also a masterpiece. I’ve never found a cartridge I like as much as the DS ones and they are now the only cartridges I have. They’re just ‘right’. Because they have their own equaliser and power supply there is no need for a separate phono stage. It’s one less thing to worry about. Oh and they also light up.
Aesthetix are well known for their ultra-high end amplifiers and have been striving for many years to deliver the Aesthetix sound in a more accessible package. The new Mimas is the result. The preamplifier section is a valve design with a solid state power amplifier. It’s stunning.
Lovingly hand crafted by Jes Kerr in Cambridge the Kerr Acoustic K320 features a unique transmission line, producing incredibly accurate and extended frequency response. I love the True Ribbon tweeter in this design. Really sweet.
Clearaudio Tracer Tonearm
DS Audio E1
Aesthetix Mimas integrated amplifier with DAC card
Kerr Acoustic K320 loudspeakers
System 5. The CAD way. £46,225
Scott Berry is a hero of mine. What he doesn’t know about digital audio is not worth knowing. Always totally engaging and helpful he’s always worth listening to. He also makes extraordinary gear. I still can’t say I totally understand how his Ground Controls work, but all I will say is that I’ve done demos of them with some of the best engineers and producers I know, and they have all been blown away. And that’s just the Ground Controls. He also makes DACS and Transports/Streamers and cables which are always amazing. So I’ve put them all into this setup.
The CAD CAT looks after all the streaming and also acts as a transport. So pop in a CD and it will automatically rip it to memory. Stream via Qobuz or Tidal, controlling everything using apps on your handheld device. The CAT is also ready to run Roon.
The CAD CAT is connected to the 1543 DAC via USB.
I’ve gone with the Aesthetix Mimas as I know Scott is a big fan, and in this instance have used the MBL 126 loudspeakers. Equally you could choose some Kerr Acoustics or change the Aesthetix Mimas to a Janus preamplifier and go with the Dutch & Dutch 8C.
CAD CAT 1TB storage
CAD 1543 MkII DAC
CAD USB Cable II
CAD Ground Control GC1
MBL 126 Loudspeakers