Audio Bliss Is All About Equipment Synergy And The People Who Make And Service The Equipment


Well-Known Member
May 24, 2010
Jersey Shore- waterside
I am a very fortunate guy to have an amazing audio system that I listen to probably at least 4 hours each day and up to 15 hours. I have had many audio systems during my life and have been engaged in making my ultimate system for a number of years, actually creating it during the past 4 years. Several people and companies have been invaluable in developing and perfecting my Bucket List System, with the last improvement happening this Monday and Tuesday and now I get sonic experiences beyond my wildest dreams.

Tops amongst the people and companies who have had a critical positive role in helping me along the way is Steve Williams, WBF's founder. In essence, Steve has tried to help me in any way he can and has been a close personal friend for probably somewhere around 25 years and has been instrumental in the development of my Bucket List System. He has always been very generous with me sharing what he learns and connections he has developed from founding WBF. His fingerprints are all over every piece of equipment in my current system because of Steve's friendship and generosity. He has also facilitated my knowledge about what pieces I needed to achieve my goals and then reaches out to the manufacturers on my behalf.

But another thing Steve has done for me and totally changed my audio focus, and fortunately helped me develop a system that is helping me heal from 13+ months of a serious illness that was supposed to have killed me was being a true close friend and has shared his network of manufactures with me to assist my in building my final system. Don't get me wrong a whole group of people have helped with Steve's encouragement in my effort to get my ideal Bucket List System. Steve introduced me to Von Schweikert Audio just after they debuted the Ultra 11 and allowed me to help instigate the development of the Ultra 9, which I own and just had modified by Damon and Leif from VSA on Monday and Tuesday by modifying the cabinets to accept CMS LS 1.5 speaker footers (required removal of the skirt that hides the four Soundcasters under the speakers). He also introduced me to Joe Lavrencik and CMS footers to the point that I have been a beta tester for Joe three times.

This speaker footer project that started more than 2 years ago, but due to the pandemic was put on hold due to travel restrictions until a few weeks ago when a revised plan for modifying my speakers started and completed on Tuesday. Let me say that my system is now exactly what I dreamed, a sonic bliss machine would impact me in my retirement and final years. That this system lives in my living room so I can make it major part of my life and recovery from my stork that is also helping me with my recovery from my stroke by getting me out of head worrying about my medical problems because the sound is so believable when I start obsessing about my serious health issues.

I have only a day and a half on my VSA Ultra 9's with CMS LS 1.5 footers installed after Damon and Leif from VSA came to my house after Capital Audiofest to modify my speakers to accept the footers and then tweak my entire listening environment.. With the LS 1.5 footers installed and my room and speakers tweaked by VSA, I can say with zero hesitation that I have never heard a system that sounds better than my sound at this point. I cannot imagine where the sonic end point will go, but experience tells me it will only get better. The sound stage and clarity and frequency extension are nothing short of magical. I am lucky to have been forced into retirement and now have the time to listen as much as I desire, which with this last VSA modification has already caused a huge uptick in my daily listening time

So another critical person in the development of my system is Joe Lavrencik from Critical Mass Systems, since I use his footers under everything in my system and consider them a basic component. I do not understand how they work, but have zero doubt about their contributions. Fortunately Damon and Leif share my thoughts on this front and are good enough friends to help custom modify my speakers for the LS 1.5's, not to mention be very fun house guests since I live in NJ.

Another person who deserves mention is Gary Leeds, who I met through Steve. He owns Hear This, which imports and distributes Westminster Lab equipment, which has totally changed/improved the sound of my system via its class A design with absurdly low noise floor and lightening fast rise and decay times. Gary is also rapidly becoming a close personal friend and helping with the overall sound. He has also joined VSA consortium that I am part of to help advance the believability of my system, which I strongly believe is why my system produces so many positive emotional impacts on me as I heal.

In addition to having a good network of audio friends and health support friends, I am truly realizing even more how important the people behind the products are and Damon and Leif are amongst the best, and in my opinion also produce the best sounding speakers. So I want to stress that it is not only the product, but the people who make and sell them that produce the overall audio joy. In this arena Steve, Damon, Leif, Joe and Gary all play a dramatic role in audio my efforts and the quality of of my life at this challenging time in my life.

Thanks is also due my lifelong audio buddy, Marty also on this forum, and has been a major audio influencer in my life. So while I while provide an update when the speaker footers totally settle in, I want to insure you know how special Damon and Leif and VSA are as designers and true friends as are the others I have mentioned in this post.

If you find yourself anywhere near NYC or Philly and want to hear a system tweaked to the limits and hear just how good the products in my system, especially my VSA Ultra 9's are, and the synergy between them to get the best overall sound. You will also will also hopefully have a fun time and learn about some new audio products that I think are amazing and why they are part of my system and the people behind them are all my close friends.

This has totally changed, in a good way, what audio means to me and the value of having true close friends, especially when we share core loves and hobbies.


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Well-Known Member
Dec 6, 2011
North Shore of Boston
Great write up, Russ. The people involved and the friendships make it very special.

Two quick observations: based on the pattern on the rug, it looks like your speakers are toed out just a tad from straight ahead. And I like the top shelf of your rack. Not the usual sources.


Well-Known Member
May 24, 2010
Jersey Shore- waterside
Great write up, Russ. The people involved and the friendships make it very special.

Two quick observations: based on the pattern on the rug, it looks like your speakers are toed out just a tad from straight ahead. And I like the top shelf of your rack. Not the usual sources.
thank you. The speakers were aimed by Leif because moving my TV back changed the sound stage and putting the LS 1.5/s on the new plinth allowed for the speakers to be separated more. It was really fun watching Leif reset the speakers because he understands their potential better than anyone, but we are already in uncharted territory with the footers installed, the TV pushed back to free of the sound stage image from the rear drivers.

I could not be happier and yet believe that I am not through with the speaker footer break in. The toe out is an illusion. The cabinet lines create a lot of illusions when I look at the back of the speaker it appears you might be correct on the right side with a small amount of right sided toe out. However, sonically it is spot on. I suspect that the proximity to the right wall may be impacting the sound stage.

Bottom line, I still have the best sound I have ever had in any of my systems, but then the Westminster Lab equipment is truly special and seems to like the component footers as well. I find it somewhat hard to accept that I was so enthralled with their sound when they had no CMS 2M 1.5 footers under the Westminster gear, which created a much bolder sound, compared to the highly articulate, but leaner sound, using the feet that Angus designed. With the addition of LS 1.5 footers, cabinet modification (removal of the skirt to allow for the footers to be connected directly to the bottom of the cabinet) lowered the top of the speaker by about an inch and created a space under the speaker for air to flow more freely around the speaker

But once again it is clear that Joe knows what he is doing when designing the footers to the point that I consider them required components of my system. Even though I thought I was done with creating my Bucket List System because now that I am retired, I do not have the same financial freedom I had while working. However, I also appreciate every day more than I ever did before and want to finish my project, now that my system has moved to an entirely different level and I believe could benefit from some tubes in my signal path, since my core is now SS, whereas it was all tube (VAC) with a MSB DAC to create the overall balance. So now the balance is reversed and while Angus' modifications to my MSB is nothing short of amazing, I would like to try to get a Horizon in to replace the MSB. I had one on order, from Fred Ainsley but had to cancel my order because it was looking like I would need to move to an assisted living facility for the balance of my life and my system would not be appropriate or tolerated in that environment. So while my relationship with Fred is in its early stages, I am sure I will be adding him to my list of key people and friends who will help and interact with me for the balance of my live.

Since I decided to shift my treatment to home care so I could live in my home on the water and have access to my system and boat in my backyard for as long as my health holds, it is now more about the quality of my daily life, rather than how long I live. I also had problems with my turntable, a Bergmann Galder/Oden on a vibraplane on top of a 600 pound electron microscope table, because I live is a very caustic audio environment with lots of humidity and salt passing through my room because I have water both in front of and behind my home. I usually have my sliders and front door open to relieve bass pressure from my system which also has two JL F113 subs in the rear corners to supplement the powered 15" subs on the back of of my 9's. While the Bergmann is an amazing TT and I love straight trackers, the salt precipitation on the arm tube and platter spindle made the Bergmann a no go for my location. Since I am breaking some of my Bucket List System guidelines with regard to new equipment purchases, I would rather live a bit more cautiously and have the system of my dreams, which amazingly is a huge help to my recovery. So it appears that thanks to Gary Leeds, i will be adding an ARS Machinae TT to my system and a Westminster phono card to my preamp and put the My Sonic Labs Signature Platinum in the new Turntable.

Then, I hopefully will have completed my Bucket List System so I can listen as much as I wish as long as I can and know that I gave my ultimate system my very best. A fringe benefit of this project is that I have made a number of truly special friendships which have helped my system evolve, and more important have helped the quality of my life during this very challenging time. Please come and share listening to this amazing compilation of equipment and hopefully interact with my amazing friends who are the reason I have this system and the main reason I am alive today.:cool:
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