Less is more.
I’m a firm believer in that credo. Especially living in one of the most expensive cities in the world for real estate. No, not New York or Tokyo: Vancouver. Space is at a premium when $1,950 a month in rent gets you 570 sq.ft. So I’m going to make the case for what city dwellers could look to for a truly high-end system that does not require an entire room just to house it. It’s easy in life to find yourself with way too much stuff. Even easier in high fidelity to find yourself with three or four sources, a pre-amp or two, step-up transformers, a pair of mono blocks, power conditioners, transducers, and enough cabling to truss up the reporting team of Stereophile. But the sound, you say… the sound.
I’ve heard many big systems with all their accoutrements, and the sound can be completely life-altering. It can turn into a Holy Grail for some audiophiles that they spend their lives chasing. But listen to me when I say that you can get close (or better in some cases) with a source, an integrated amp, and loudspeakers: That’s it.
Strides in technology have helped companies like Accuphase Laboratory from Japan to refine time-tested circuit designs. Take for example thIs simple system put together at CES by Axiss Audio. It was comprised of the Accuphase E-270 integrated amplifier ($4,500 USD, 120 watts/ch, fully-balanced circuit design, parallel/push-pull Mosfet output stage) which allows consumers a taste of the real deal in high-end for a reasonable price.
This not an amplifier for those with upgraditis, this is an amplifier of time investment. It also features an outstanding moving-magnet, and moving-coil phono stage. Paired with the new Accuphase DP-560 SA-CD/CD drive ($5,200 USD, Four-parallel DAC circuit, DSD, PCM via USB up to 384 kHz/32-bit and 11.2896 MHz/1-bit DSD), and a Reed Muse 3C turntable ($20,300 USD with two Reed 3P 12-inch tonearms, quartz-based, phase-locked, loop-motor controller – two direct current (DC) motors – with either friction-drive or belt-drive available via user-enabled change), and a pair of Franco Serblin’s Lignea standmount loudspeakers ($5,995 USD, 83dB efficient, 110mm customized mid-bass driver, 27mm impregnated-textile tweeter, apparently Serblin’s last design before passing away), the sound was exultant. The cartridges in use were the Air Tight PC-1 Supreme ($10,900 USD), and the Accuphase AC-5 MC cartridge (Discontinued).
Now I know this set-up is two sources, but since I’ve got a predilection for analog, I’d go with the Reed just to keep the box count low. So you have a turntable, with two arms, and cartridges, an integrated amplifier, and speakers as your complete system. While the Ligneas obviously don’t flesh-out the grunt on the lower octaves, there was never a feeling that anything was truly missing from the sound. This is a system of intimacy, of nuances, texture, balance, of incredible resolution and timing. The Lignea is practically instrumental in its musicality and true-tone reproduction paired with the Air Tight/Reed/Accuphase combo. These are all essential qualities to sound reproduction that I value very highly, and this combination never put a note wrong to my ears.