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Positive Feedback ISSUE 52
november/december 2010


It Has Been Awhile - What's Been Going On
by Gary Lea


lea's system

When I first came on board I was asked for a list of my equipment. It was put up on the site and now that I am settled in a bit more and have a few reviews published here I thought I would give you a bit of a run down on who I am and how I got here. If that is of zero interest to you, and that will apply to many I am sure, well then just move on down to the ever changing equipment list.

I got my start some years ago when I was invited to write for The Sensible Sound, which had been in publication for over 28 years when it was sold two and half years ago, only to then completely disappear. That was a shame as it was a great little print magazine. I started out writing CES reviews and that led very quickly to equipment reviews and music reviews. I was with them for roughly ten years and enjoyed it. Not long before they went the way of the Dodo bird I was asked to write for Constantine Soo's and enjoyed my time there writing so many articles I lost track all together.

That led me here to PFO and a wonderful opportunity to join the team as an Associate Senior Editor. I am thoroughly excited with the opportunity and love the camaraderie here and the support. This is an incredibly strong and diverse group and PFO covers everything from the ultra high end to budget products. The ability to write about a broad range of products is very appealing to me. As of late I have been keeping a very close eye on the emerging Chinese High End Hifi industry and am finding many great things coming out of that country. You will be able to read about some them shortly.

The longer I am in this hobby the more finicky I become. Not so much the resident curmudgeon looking to slam a piece of equipment because it did not give me that last Hz on the bottom end or precisely re-create the sound of breaking glass in the high end but rather less interested in the equipment in and of itself and more about how it presents the music to me and whether it involves me. I truly believe that all those things we hold near and dear such as center focus, pinpoint imaging, sound stage depth and breadth etc. are all very important to the overall experience. But now I really listen for how balanced a presentation something can bring me. Is it involving? Does it make me want to get up and move with a smile on my face? Does it cause me to listen very closely to see if what I am hearing is what is really there? Does it surprise me with something in a selection that I have not heard before? (This happens more than you might think). These are the things that I listen for. There was a time that I listened for how deep it went, now it is how tuneful and satisfying is the bottom end? Perhaps it is due to my hearing changing as I grow older or the fact that I am too lazy and getting too old to constantly get up and adjust the speakers by five microns to see if I can get another perceived liter of air around the vocalist for the nth degree in ambience. Nothing wrong in doing that for those that want to but I want to listen to music, not fiddle with gear incessantly. That is why I use specific tracks to relate the sound of a piece of equipment.

So I listen to just about anything but am a bit less enthused about hard core rap, country, opera and classical music. Love jazz, rock, alternative, strings and combination of the previously mentioned. I am a sucker for the female voice as an instrument and not at all opposed to the male voice either. I find the human voice the most interesting instrument of all, just as I find the human ear the most important measuring device of all. So when I am asked to recommend the best system my answer is pretty universal, "Whatever sounds best to your ears". You see there is NO one correct answer and no one better able to tell you what is best for you than you!

So that is a very simplistic look into a very complex person. I am definitely quirky, just ask Greg Weaver or any of my children. I love family, the American way and all those things. I am a wine lover and a better tequila lover and appreciate art in all its forms. Life should be quirky, wonderful and just a bit weird. I am a fervent formula One fan and a bigger cycling fan. So my life pretty much fits that bill and that is fine by me and hopefully some of you will be able to relate to that as it comes out in my writing.

lea's system

So here is the current list of gear.

Schweikert VSR4 MKIII (main reference), Compact WZSE Collector's Edition, Usher 6311 and AAD Silver Reference 1.

Tube: Jolida Music Envoy 211 tube monoblock amps and preamp (main reference).
Solid State: ShengYa PSM-600 monobloc solid-state amps and matching CS6 tubed preamp.

Digital Front End: Grant Fidelity Reference Tube 1000 CD player (main reference), Cary Audio DVD 6 used as a CD, Wadia i170 iPod Deck and 160Gig iPod.
Analogue Front End: Consonance Droplet 5.2 MKII with ST600 tonearm (main reference) Nottingham Analogue Hyper Space and Arm with Wave Mechanic. Montegiro Lusso with DaVinci Noble and SME 5009 tonearms.
Cartridges - Koetsu Azule Platinum (main reference), Koetsu Urushi Vermillion, Goldnote Baldinotti, Dynavector 17D3 cartridges. Phone Stages: Goldnote Pamphili (main reference), Blue Circle Fon Lo Thingee, Musical Fidelity V3, and Koetsu Step up transformer.

XLO Signature 3 interconnects speaker cables and power cords (main reference cables currently). Furutech DIY interconnects. Kimber Kable Monocle XL speaker cables and Select Interconnects. Anda bunch of cables I am too lazy to list.

Grant Fidelity RPF-120 MKII Reference Power Conditioners. Misc doodads and tweaks and loose parts like all audiophiles.

My room is 33 by 16 with the front half of the room having 23' high ceilings and the second half having 12' ceilings. The front half of the room only has a wall on the right side with the left being wide open into a grand entry. This creates a room with very little in the way of room interaction. I had Albert Von Schweikert in the house twice to set up speakers and both times he marveled at the room and how surprised he was at the lack of issues with a room the size of this one.

In its current configuration the speakers baffles are 68 inches from the front wall and spaced 9 feet between centers of the drivers and 9 feet from the listening position which is set at just about 15 feet from the front wall and 18 feet to the rear wall. Behind the listening position is a rather large media storage cabinet that measures 8 feet long by 8.5 feet high and 16 niches deep. One half houses vinyl and the other half CDs. We already needing another matching cabinet on the other side of the room. At the far end of the room is my desk and makeshift office. It is also the staging area for any and all incoming and outgoing gear.