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  1. #1
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

    Posts: 5,092
    I'm James.

    Default All change at Bigmans

    It has been a few months since I last visited Oli and as his revolving door has been spinning quicker than ever I thought it would be good to give Oliver a visit to appreciate what he has been up to in the last few months. I have kept an eye open on some of his changes via his blog but as so many things were happening I could not quite keep up and understand where he was going so a listening session was really the only way to make sense of it all!

    So I popped round with a few LPs which I managed to salvage from my own massive upheaval having just moved house and no longer in control of my own system which is now a pile of cardboard boxes. On entering Olivers listening room I could see another selection of black and silver boxes which have replaced the previous set of black and silver boxes but what immediately drew my attention was the absolutely beautiful pair of Mordant Short Performance 880 speakers. These look of the highest quality and are superbly built and finished. The photo does not really do justice too them. I will talk about their performance later.

    [IMG]P1010537 by J, on Flickr[/IMG]

    Oliver ran through the system and the only part that had not changed was the turntable which is his classic Technics SP10 Mk2 although this was now in a new plinth. The Phonemic At1010 mk6 arm had been upgraded and there was the usual Ortofon Kb on the end.

    [IMG]P1010538 by Jsy, on Flickr[/IMG]

    So to the new stuff. First up not withstanding the speakers was the Neurochrome Modulus 686. Not familiar with this amp? Nor was I. It is I believe a DIY build from America and as Oliver had decided to buy it I though it must be rather good to upstage the Krell KSA50 Beast that he had. The sound and control this power amp had over the system had to be heard and felt to be believed.

    It has way more muscle than the Krell and really was an Iron grip in velvet glove. It conveyed all the Macro and micro nuances of the music in a massively dynamic way without sounding shouty or in your face, just beautiful smooth absolute control and total transparency. This amp must be the most transparent power amp I have ever heard and made eve OTL amps sound veiled and thick. It had that magic knack of engaging you and unravelling all the strands of the recording with total ease. Even when recording got complex, loud and with huge dynamics this amp let you make sense of everything you listened too. We used both digital and analogue material and the story was the same.

    I have heard some very expensive hight end power amps in my time but this was far the best power amp I have ever heard!! I could not fault it in any area and it has even made me change my mind regarding valve amps. By far its most impressive ability was its transparency which contributed to the overall impression that made Olivers system disappear. You were not listening to a system but simply the music and acoustic space. WOW.

    [IMG]
    P1010543 by sy, on Flickr[/IMG]

    Backed up by the was the Neurochrome Differential preamp. All I can say was it did not have a sound or sonic imprint that I could detect.

    [IMG]P1010540 by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/162281319@N03/]Jurl], on Flickr[/IMG]

    We listened to vinyl via another new piece of kit...Oliver has certainly been busy and this was a Simaudio MoonLP5.3RS phono stage. This vanished too. SimAudio are well know to myself as I have heard a lot of their kit. It is always excellent and very well made so I was not surprised.

    [IMG]P1010542 by ssy, on Flickr[/IMG]

    Digital was delivered fro a Laptop via the Pecan pi DAC / streamer which is very good and in Oliver's system sounded even better than the RPi3 BOSS. Over the course of the morning swapping back and forth between Vinyl and digital I would say I preferred the vinyl and that is not because I am biased but it just gave a fuller account of the music in more believable way. Most of the music we listened too sounded like it was recorded live in the studio where as digital still sounded slightly processed. That is all I am going to say on that matter.

    Getting back to the system. At the end of the session I appreciated just what a fabulous find Oliver has had purchasing the Mordaunt Short speakers. In Oliver's room they produced a wonderful scale to the music and were totally in control. Oliver worried a little about the bass but I though it was way more controlled than his previous Pioneer speakers. These new speakers are total class, smooth, detailed, dynamic and have a seamless integration from top to bottom. Hooked up to the rest of Oliver's new kit was just stunning.


    More than once I had the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and I was inspired by a system that really sounded exciting and totally musical. The sound Oliver has now is exactly what I like and would seek. If I had to sum it up in one word it would be TRANSPARENCY. His system got out of the way and left you with just the music. It did not sound like you were listening to hifi or recorded music for that matter. You really could believe in the performance with a sense of reality that was sometimes breathtaking.

    Oli has certainly moved on but not just by a little bit but by a huge leap.
    VPI Scout 1.1 - Ortofon 2M Black FGS - Croft 25R+ - Croft Series 7 - Spendor SP2

  2. #2
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Posts: 10,156
    I'm Oliver.

    Default

    Big thanks to Jim for sharing his thoughts on my humble system

    As always, it's a delight having Jim round for a listen. He is as critical as me and more importantly, he has the same idea of sounds good. I am big on hearing the acoustic space the recordings are made in, the effects on the vocals and all thosetiny nuggets of information that create a bigger picture. I will just add a few thoughts about what we discussed and try and remember all the tracks we played.

    We started of with a listen to Leo Kottke - from spink to correctionville. Link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShF7yjU7Jqk

    I decided to start with track because i wanted to highlight early on that an all Solid State system was capable of producing an Earthy, Bluesy tone. This track does that. We played this via the Pecan Pi. I think this system is really capable of capturing your attention and within the first few bars, i could see Jim moving in time to the track.

    It's a well recorded track and i highlighted this fact.

    Next up was Eva Cassidy - Wade in the Water. Link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-hKDYQ6F54

    I chose this track due to the fact i think it's a really lean recording. I wanted to highlight the differences between the two tracks, tonally. Listening to this track is a bit of a foot-tapper for me but it didn't have that effect on Jim. I didn't expect it to but i felt it was important to show the PecanPi when Audiophile recordings arent used.

    Next up was Marlon Williams - Silent Passage. Link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEAT0CBVQVs

    This track instantly caught the ear. I was concerned about the bass in this track but even at the very audible levels we had the system playing at, it never got out of control of "boomy"

    Seems, as though i had been a little concerned over nothing but i KNOW in a slightly bigger room with a concrete floor and some acoustic treatment, this wouldn't even cross my mind. Jim suggested at this point about the ability to hear the characteristics of the singers voice and also how the shape of their mouth changed the sound.

    At this juncture, Jim unveiled a copy of a Louis Armstrong LP. He suggested we compare two different versions of "St James Infirmary" One by Peter Schneider and one by Louis himself.

    Here's the link to the Peter Schneider version, we played via the PecanPi : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLCE70jefkc

    And here's the Louis Armstrong version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKt5wZcbmb0

    I think Jim said of the The Stimulators version that he could hear down to the tonsils of the singer lol. For me, and Jim i think, there was something magical about the LP and the SIMaudio LP5.3rs really allowed the SP10, PMAT1010 & Kb to really do their thing. Obviously the comparison was apples to Oranges but the Vinyl really did wow!

    We then played Down in Mississippi by Hans Theesink and Terry Evans on Vinyl. Here's the Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmHjCf_YV1o

    I love this album. It had everything i have come to expect from this system.

    Next up was this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCfe9_rDTBw

    Rodrigo y Gabriela - FOC was a track i hadn't heard before. I hadn't realised Jim brought it to try and trip up the system!!!

    The pure speed and power they get out of their instruments blew me away. At the end, Jim had a look on his face that suggested his mind was blown. It had certainly been a testing track but the system never felt like it had any issue at all. Every note, every tap absolutely everything was organised and audible. Not just Audibly but completely cohesive. I was extremely happy. There was a stage in front of us and the size of it was absolutely believable. I listened as much with my ears a i watched the sound move about the soundstage. Epic.

    After a quick break to recover my senses and get a drink, we played this

    Aldous Harding - Swell does the Skull - Vinyl. A link to the track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8szSWZojgos

    This is where the "moment" happened.

    Throughout the morning, Jim had been listening to "generic" tracks. Ones that he owned, but none that he knew intimately. This track is a staple of his daily audio diet. The build up to this track was spoken with a very obvious affection for it.

    At the end Jim uttered "well that didn't happen"

    I knew instantly what he has expected and what hadn't happened. To me, this was a new track and i was listening to the really clever uses of the multitrack vocals. The way at times on the LP she deliberately blew into the Mic as sang to create distortion. Jim on the other other hand had never heard it like this.

    As we discussed it, Jim self diagnosed the problem. The euphoric influence that his Croft gear (loaded with valves) gives him was not here. Instead Jim got a listen to the recording as it should be. Accurately replayed. We discussed what we had heard and i told him, there's no right or wrong in this game, but valves lie to you lol. I had the exact experience a while back when Angus brought a few bits around, mainly his Avalon Phonostage. I just couldn't ignore what i was missing.

    We played a couple of tracks after this but i honestly think the realisation/revelation/horror just made them a little insignificant lol.

    I have to say, i really appreciate the second opinion on the system and the subsequent write up. Thanks Jim.

  3. #3
    Join Date: May 2011

    Location: Glasgow

    Posts: 7,382
    I'm Brian.

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    Great write up gents . Do you think you've lured James over from the dark side Oli ?

    I'll have to get down there and pay you a visit mate
    Regards
    Brian

    Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment . (Rumi )


    Korus Computer Audio music server .
    DAC 3 French DAC
    Amplifier : Rega Brio R
    Speakers : Tannoy 637
    Interconnects : MS Audio / Klotz MC5000 .
    Speaker cables : Chord Epic Twin

  4. #4
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Posts: 10,156
    I'm Oliver.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by brian2957 View Post
    Great write up gents . Do you think you've lured James over from the dark side Oli ?

    I'll have to get down there and pay you a visit mate
    I genuinely think this Neurochrome amplifier is capable of turning even the most hardened Valve guys into believers.

    It's a down to one very simple reason..... TRANSPARENCY

    This amp (and the supporting cast) have some of the best SNR and Distortion figures out there, and that combined with High quality sources means you are given an insight that just is jot available with valves, or at least any I have heard.

    There is a tradeoff USUALLY and that's the lack of euphoria or enhancement of the solid-state sound and that can be quite a sterile affair, but this amp doesn't suffer that.

    It's revealing and transparent whilst remaining highly musical. It's perfect (IMO)

    I've converted the valve guru himself, Mr Firebottle, Mr Shaman is a Valve guy too and he's after a Neurochrome and I honestly believe Jim heard far too much to be able to ignore it.

    It is akin to an awakening or an epiphinal intervention once you hear it.

    I'd love for you to Visit Brian, you are more than welcome.

  5. #5
    Join Date: May 2011

    Location: Glasgow

    Posts: 7,382
    I'm Brian.

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    Sounds like you're there Oli . James is usually a bit more measured in his reviews so he must have heard something very special on his visit to you .

    I'll have more time on my hands next year and will hopefully sort something out cheers
    Regards
    Brian

    Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment . (Rumi )


    Korus Computer Audio music server .
    DAC 3 French DAC
    Amplifier : Rega Brio R
    Speakers : Tannoy 637
    Interconnects : MS Audio / Klotz MC5000 .
    Speaker cables : Chord Epic Twin

  6. #6
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Posts: 10,156
    I'm Oliver.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by brian2957 View Post
    Sounds like you're there Oli . James is usually a bit more measured in his reviews so he must have heard something very special on his visit to you .

    I'll have more time on my hands next year and will hopefully sort something out cheers
    Yes, he's definitely more measured usually but like I say, I think this system hits all the right notes.

    There will be a few little developments of what's already here, like the addition of either a custom made power supply for the phonostage and possibly the addition of one of Angus's Avalon phonostages, but that entirely depends on what we can squeeze out of the LP5.3rs.

    I also want to rebuilt the preamp and get away from those PCB mounted XLR sockets. I'm not a fan of them so will find some that are up to my satisfaction and even if they don't make much difference sonically, I'll have piece of kind.

    Other than looking for an Ortofon Vienna, and possibly trialing a couple of DACs, I am done.

    A good feeling.

  7. #7
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

    Posts: 5,092
    I'm James.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by brian2957 View Post
    Sounds like you're there Oli . James is usually a bit more measured in his reviews so he must have heard something very special on his visit to you .

    I'll have more time on my hands next year and will hopefully sort something out cheers
    As always I went to Oliver's open minded not knowing anything about the Neurochrome amplifier. This amplifier has absolutely made me reconsider my own amplification in a way no other amplifier has and that includes some mega bucks stuff. It has extraordinary capabilities and has to be heard to be believed.

    I think you will like it Brian and indeed the rest of Oli's system,hopefully we can sort a visit out in the not too distant future.
    VPI Scout 1.1 - Ortofon 2M Black FGS - Croft 25R+ - Croft Series 7 - Spendor SP2

  8. #8
    Join Date: Feb 2013

    Location: W Lothian

    Posts: 71,851
    I'm Grant.

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    Good to see another happy member. Site is gonna die off at this rate lol
    Regards,
    Grant .... ؠ

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: democracy simply-doesn't-work
    .... ..... ...... ...... ................... ..... ..... ..... ..... .....
    OPPO BDP-103D - PANASONIC UB450 - IFI PURIFIER 2/PATHOS CLASSIC REMIX & HIDAC AMPLIFIER - LEAF HD BLUETOOTH - NURAPHONE' HEADPHONES - 2*ZBOOK'- ROON - MULTI HDD'S - DIGIONE RPI3 - EDINGDALE MK1 SPEAKERS - CABLE INC SUPRA, FISUAL, MOGAMI,

    **Iíve studied deeply in the philosophies and religions, but cheerfulness kept breaking through**
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    "Justice is sinking to the bottom of the sea, And it feels like I'm living in the wasteland of the free"
    Give me absolute control
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    It is murder!
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  9. #9
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Posts: 10,156
    I'm Oliver.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by struth View Post
    Good to see another happy member. Site is gonna die off at this rate lol
    Hahaha

    No, I'll keep auditioning gear but it will be interesting pieces, no more "run of the mill" Stuff.

    Not being snobbish or arrogant but there ain't that much that I can afford that's going to push this lot.

  10. #10
    Join Date: May 2011

    Location: Glasgow

    Posts: 7,382
    I'm Brian.

    Default

    Shame these amps aren't more widely available
    Regards
    Brian

    Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment . (Rumi )


    Korus Computer Audio music server .
    DAC 3 French DAC
    Amplifier : Rega Brio R
    Speakers : Tannoy 637
    Interconnects : MS Audio / Klotz MC5000 .
    Speaker cables : Chord Epic Twin

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