Tempting Fate?

So, before we start, here’s that equipment list in full:


CSPort TAT Mk IIb air-bearing turntable, with CSPort AFU1-2 passive linear tracking and SAT LM-12 tonearms.

My Sonic Lab Signature Platinum, Phasemation PP-2000, Transfiguration Proteus Diamond cartridges.

TAD D600 CD/SACD player with a separate power supply.

Merging Technologies NADAC three-box DAC, comprising NADAC + Player, NADAC + Power and NADAC + Clock.

Heavily modified Studer A80 RC MK II, a Nagra IVS + QGB module and an Analog Audio Design TP 1000 tape machines

Thrax Libra two-box pre-amplifier

Tenor Audio 175S stereo power amp (mid/treble)

Krell Evolution One, two-box mono blocs (bass)

Stenheim Ultime Reference 2 loudspeakers

Cables and power cords are simply too many and varied to list.


In order to help deal with the solid, non-absorbent walls and almost exactly oblong floorplan there is an array of clear acrylic SMT diffusors and Artnovion tuneable Skyros absorbers, with six Artnovion Azores absorber panels on the ceiling above the listening seat. The transparent SMT panels help prevent the acoustic treatment intruding on what is a pleasant, airy space

The Analog Audio Design and Studer A80 tape decks. There’s an alcove behind the speaker where you’ll find a Nagra IVS, also running big reels…

You actually enter the room through a door situated in the end wall, with the equipment rack on your left, the Studer A80 R2R on your left and the newly arrived Analog Audio Design TP1000 more or less plumb in front of you. It’s an entrance that certainly establishes just how much kit is concentrated into the narrow confines of the room. Walk between the speakers and the sofa/listening seat is placed straight ahead, complete with coffee table, a second sofa and a lounge chair. This is both a listening room and a sitting room and it has to do both jobs equally well.

First order of business was to listen to the system as is, Stirling asking the client, Denis, to demonstrate and discuss what he likes about the system and where he feels that it could be improved. This is a critical step as it allows Stirling to gauge not just the wishes of the client but also their preferences and musical priorities. It’s relatively easy to set up a system for yourself. It is far more testing to set up a system to satisfy somebody else. One of the things that has always impressed me about the ASO approach, is Stirling’s ability to match a system’s performance to its owner’s needs – with many an owner astonished by the system they already own.

Denis played a number of discs, demonstrating how piano right hand could overload the system, how voices could clash and become confused. As the complexity and level of the music increased, the mid and treble ranges definitely collapsed in upon themselves, losing clarity, shape and structure, while the piano’s bottom end sounded grey, monochromatic and lifeless, with a definite tonal and temporal shift between it and the vibrant, enthusiastic midrange. Left hand attack and weight were limited and lagged significantly behind the mids, robbing the music of authority, drive and impact. Although Denis was fairly happy with the results in general, it should be noted that at this point I’d describe the speakers as having been installed, rather than set up, reflecting Stirling’s imminent arrival. Clearly, working with positioning and attitude to achieve proper integration between the tube and solid-state amps while getting the speakers to work with, rather than fight against, the room were going to be priorities…