My Bucket List System

Mobiusman

Well-Known Member
May 25, 2010
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#1
This year I turned 70 and something started happening even as I anticipated my birthday. In fact, it started happening around September, 2017. I think what started happening was I finally realized that my life is not a dress rehearsal. I had used the adage many times because it is no doubt true, but this time it was different.

I was in the middle of a workup for prostrate cancer. The problem was my former personal primary care doc who I have known since college, studied with in medical school, and reconnected with upon my return to NJ, was giving me bad advice about the proper actions in response to an elevating PSA regarding prostate CA was heavily colored by his need to be knowledgeable at a God level.

By the time I changed doctors the look of urgency on my new doc’s face when he saw my PSA and realized I had not been treated or even worked up. I knew the concept of a bucket list really mattered, but once again, more in concept than something related to things important enough to do before you die because you truly have a deep desire to experience the resultant excitement and hopefully a fundamental sense of achievement.

On the same day that my surgeon at NYU told me that it was highly likely that my case was too far along and way too aggressive for the smarter and less side-effect producing procedures like Cyber-Knife, and that there was a good chance I would need surgical removal of my prostate, my older daughter told me she was pregnant with her first child. On that fateful night, my other daughter happened to be in town and joining us for dinner. It was clear from her face that soon I would likely be hearing the same news from her.

Suddenly life rearranged and my new sense of self was I am a guy with cancer with two daughters, one pregnant and the other soon to be and I need to make better use of my time, enjoy each day more while I pursue my lifelong goal of setting up a sound system that truly makes me feel like I am where the source material came from.

All of a sudden my work as a psychiatrist and addiction specialist almost became secondary, but necessary because something had to pay for this project. My original thought as 2017 was drawing to an end was that I was due for a treat and would allow myself to spend $100,00.00 on my stereo in whatever way felt wise and fun. I felt very lavish for giving myself and deserving such a gift.

My first thoughts were that I would upscale my Vivid Giya 3’s to Vivid G1 S2’s or hopefully the Vivid G1 Spirit, which people raved about. I needed more bass even though I have a pair of JL F-113’s to supplement the side-firing Giya’s. Unfortunately, my plans were dashed badly upon an unusual audition at the importers house in a room that is bigger than any I have ever seen with a ceiling at least 25-30’ tall and the room like 35’x45’. The Spirits totally overloaded the room and although the G1’s sound better. they did not sound good.

I then went and heard anything I found interesting. I had a Spectral DMC30SV preamp and a DMA 300 RS amp connected via MIT SHD to each other and an ARC Ref CD 9 and Lamm LP2.1 phono pre hooked up to a Triangle Art Reference SE TT with a 12” Usiris MK 2 tonearm with an Apollo cartridge, which is surprisingly good with the tone arm and TT, and a ZYX Ultimate Optimum Cartridge that was in a Rockport Sirius 6000 tone arm, now waiting for my new Bergmann Galder turntable and Odin arm, custom made in all black. I have other stuff like a vibraplane, not to mention an expanding used department including my entire current system, plus a VPI ARIES Anniversary TT with 12” 3D arm, a Pass phono stage, VPI ADS controller, and always more MIT expensive cables, PC’s and speaker wire.

I could take you through my listening processes and help all of you go to sleep! So I will cut to the chase on what has become the goal and is now arriving at 18 months into this project and let’s just say a lot more money than my “generous” gift of $100,000.00. Fortunately, I own all of my equipment to guard against extreme impulsivity. I have never thought of my equipment as an asset, but rather a chip that could be used when needed for some amount of money that is no doubt way less than what I paid for it. Time to cash in some chips.

While the story of this evolution is a real vibrant story for me, it will be much less so for you and thus I will cut to the audio chase and a couple of stories about some wonderful people who I now consider new close friends. Through the help of my long-term buddy Steve Williams, I got to visit places that probably would not have happened without Steve’s guidance. I certainly would not have bonded with Damon Von Schweikert and Leif Swanson, chosen VSA Ultra 9’s as my speakers, and had a chance to use some of my communication skills.

Here’s is what I chose for my bucket list system, given my modified, modified, extremely modified budget:VAC Master preamp, VAC Renaissance Deluxe phono stage, VAC Statement 450SIQ amp, Von Schweikert Audio Ultra 9 speakers, Bergmann Galder TT with Odin arm and ZYX Ultimate Optimum cartridge, Innuous Zenith Special Edition server (to be upgraded to Innuous Statement when funds become available) and MSB Refernce DAC with fempto 77 clock (to be upgraded to Select 2 with fempto 33 clock when funds become available). Everything is connected and powered with a full loom of MasterBuilt Ultra IC’s with Bocchino connectors, PC’s and biwired Ultra speaker wire. Center Stage Footers2, Niagara 7000 conditioner, Vibraplane on a double wide Steve Blinn Stand.

The equipment is arriving, with the Bergmann, Ultra 9’s and MasterBuilt cabling yet to come in the next month. Then the work begins, when Damon and Leif come for several days to setup, play with my bucket list boat and bucket list sound system and spend time with each other.

If you made it this far then you must like a story, although probably what you were more interested in is in the next installation as the VAC electronics break in (currently connected with MIT MAX SHD until the MB Ultra arrives.


The next installment will be about the sounds of the different pieces and the change in overall sound as I shift from old to the bucket list system.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
8,115
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#2
Congratulations on making the decision, and having the ability, to put together the best system of your entire life!

I personally know and like very much many of the components you have chosen: VSA Ultra 9s, VAC (I love those amps), Masterbuilt Ultra (I will be ordering these), Bergmann Galder and Odin (I ordered one also), ZYX (I have one too), MSB (I expect to have one some day), Innuous Statement (I expect to order one someday). I can tell you right now that this is going to be an absolutely fantastic sounding system!

Now that your work as a psychiatrist and an addiction specialist has become almost secondary (that silly career stuff is a waste of time and can serve only to interfere with music and audio anyway), we expect you will have a lot of time to post extremely detailed listening impressions as you add each of these components to the gradually hatching bucket list system.

It’s great your daughters are having kids! As soon as the kids turn five years old they should be able to make some money doing piecework in a factory to help you pay for the upgrade to the MSB Select II.
 
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RogerD

VIP/Donor
May 23, 2010
3,658
215
565
BiggestLittleCity
#3
I have a special place in my heart for Kevin Hayes at VAC. I still have 3 of his Renaissance amplifiers.
Your on your way to a new adventure including your family,which is most important. Stay positive everyday and tomorrow will always be easier.
I look forward in reading your reports here about your dream system. You have surrounded yourself with some of the best in the business and they are friends too. Lucky to have such help. God bless.
 
Apr 25, 2019
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18
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#4
That’s going to be one “helluva” an audio system. I look forward to the next instalment.
I do hope that the PCa can be controlled, yours is a story that is way too common I’m afraid.
 

asiufy

Industry Expert/VIP Donor
Jul 8, 2011
3,635
615
485
San Diego, CA
almaaudio.com
#5
Russ,

Hope to see you again soon, to get some of those toys singing in your new system :)

cheers,
Alex
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#7
Time to start enjoying the fruits of your success Russ.

It's finally starting to come together
 

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
1,795
997
555
United States
#8
It’s great your daughters are having kids! As soon as the kids turn five years old they should be able to make some money doing piecework in a factory to help you pay for the upgrade to the MSB Select II.
Best line of the thread!! LOL.
I'm eager to hear the full Monty when it's ready. Very exciting. But please don't forget about the room, which I know is a concern you share. Bonnie Schnitta to the rescue?
 

ack

VIP/Donor & WBF Founding Member
May 6, 2010
6,243
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Boston, MA
#9
Chilling read, Russ. Best wishes for your medical issues and enjoy the new system!
 

Holli82

Well-Known Member
Jun 7, 2010
167
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435
#10
Russ,

As I sit here 2 months after delivery of my Ultra 9's, Masterbuilt cables, VAC electronics, etc., I can promise you this will be one of those times in life when the delivered product will exceed the the initial promises. I am excited for you to experience what I am hearing. Leif and Damon will make sure that you are satisfied. I look forward to your journey!
 

Mobiusman

Well-Known Member
May 25, 2010
594
191
455
Jersey Shore- waterside
#11
Russ,
.
As I sit here 2 months after delivery of my Ultra 9's, Masterbuilt cables, VAC electronics, etc., I can promise you this will be one of those times in life when the delivered product will exceed the the initial promises. I am excited for you to experience what I am hearing. Leif and Damon will make sure that you are satisfied. I look forward to your journey!
Rodney,
I have been watching the evolution of your system with envy. My system will be much like yours except I am more vinyl oriented and eagerly awaiting a Bergmann Galder/ODIN air bearing straight tracker, in which I will put my new ZYX Universe Optimum cartridge. I also thought that since all of my core electronics are tube, instead of going with a Lampizator, which I would use with a SS core, I am getting a MSB Reference with a Fempto 77 with the hopes of upgrading to a Select 2 with a Fempto 33 and a Innuous Zenith SE with hopes of upgrading to the Statement. At this point I am waiting on the completion of MasterBuilt loom and installation in 4-6 weeks.
 
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spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
11,694
2,488
603
E. England
#12
Ron buying MSB. I would never have put money on that.
 

the sound of Tao

Well-Known Member
Jul 18, 2014
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#13

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
11,694
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E. England
#14
Well, Ron IS fabulous...
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
11,694
2,488
603
E. England
#16
I've never called a 70 year old man fabulous. I'm not about to start now. Apologies to Russ if he is indeed fabulous. But, you know...
 

Mobiusman

Well-Known Member
May 25, 2010
594
191
455
Jersey Shore- waterside
#18
Bucket Number Two Of My Bucket List System
A week ago Friday was a day that I long awaited--the arrival of my final piece of VAC equipment at this stage of the build, a Statement 450 Stereo iQ, essentially one Statement 450 monoblock divided into a stereoblock with two power transformers (one for each channel), instead a single huge power transformer for the monoblock, and two smaller output transformers where there is one large output transformer for the monoblock. There is at most a miniscule degradation over the monoblocks at a price saving of $65,000.00 for the other amp, an additional MB Ultra PC at about $15,000, and more rack space and electrical service. Said another way, it would take my entire luxury initial budget of $100,000.00 and theswap or my 450 Statement Stereoblock for two Statement monoblocks.

Besides, I would buy a Statement Phono at $80,000.00 before upgrading the amp to monoblocks, because I cannot fully imagine the benefit it would play, but I better appreciate the possibilities given what Kevin and others have said about it. Anyhow, all of this is not financially wise at this time, AND I am already 5 times my original budget and must work out what I have accumulated and besides my number one goal is to be the happiest I can be from this particular thing on my personal bucket list.

It is funny how a 5 or 6 figure audio purchase forces me to think more and more deeply about the wisdom and motivation for each potential purchase. While this is at it’s core an audio post, for me it is possibly more about how each major purchase will impact my daily enjoyment and balancing that against continuing to work to make money versus moving my retirement up so that I will have more time for me and what I desire, including listening to music. Sadly, in retrospect, many of my past audio purchases where more about what I thought was better rather than what gave me more pleasure.

What I have realized is that I find my work so exhausting because I give my all and have too many patients, so by the time I get home, it is late (9-10) and my mind is all jammed up with the day’s work. I guess this is a good time to explain how I use listening to music to re-center me and why a system that sounds real is so important to me beyond my love of audio.

I love music, but I love it more when I am relaxed because I can better submit myself to listening to the music. I believe that this correlation occurs because I love sounds, not just music and the more realistic the sound, the more I can drift into a different state of mind, which in my case means, I can get out of my head and react to music which is much less intensity from what I do all day long. Said another way the more realistic the system and the music, the faster I can get out of my head and back to life, something that I have not had enough time for during the past several years.

Therefore, I try to emulate reality with every audio purchase I make, and to some extent judge the value of the purchase by how much the overall sound approaches reality. By reality, I do not mean great sound, which is what I think most audio companies aspire to achieve. I mean the sonic and pressure cues are so accurate and in synch with each other, that my brain interprets the total as it must be what I have learned occurs in a live scenario. By choosing different music I have learned what works given different states of my mind, and thus gravitate unconsciously to what I need musically, which varies with every scenario. The net result is I am happier and probably a nicer person.

This is important to me and why I have used the “bucket list” moniker. For me a bucket list is made up of things that I believe will so enrich my personal joy and reduce that which I see as drudgery, that I have to rearrange my time and money priorities to help insure that I get the resultant joy that will help me be a better and happier person and hopefully pave the way for many new experiences and friendships.

Oh yeah, another reason it is bucket list level is that I believe that what I have been seeking for 60 years and have repeatedly mistakenly thought I found, only to find some area where it is deficient, pushing me back to looking for what might be better, which is merely making a shopping list with a hope of a better experience. I hope I will enjoy listening to music much more with much less wasted time thinking about my next audio purchase. While I regularly question the values of people who find such reward from shopping, I have to accept that I have not been that different other than I only shop in one type of store, audio, but due to the lack of brick and mortar shops at this point, most of it is online.

So at this point of this story, some honest disclosure is necessary, first because it is in synch with the mantra by which I try to live, “do the right thing in all of my affairs”, which includes when acceptable being totally honest with myself and others about my motivations and make any necessary corrections to be true to my mantra. Second, I hope that the more I adhere to this personal goal, the more I will hopefully enjoy the amazing system I am assembling. Third, I need to put an end to a common malady of being an audiophile—namely too much time spent in pursuit of perfection and having the best, which is a no-win scenario because it is void of personal contentment, or at best breeds discontent very quickly.

But at 70, I am going to accept this simple fact that there will always be something better and focus on the fact that when I first had this dream of my ultimate system at age 10 in SF at the SF Hi Fi Show, what I imagined is so far surpassed by what I already have, let alone what I am assembling. This growing stuff does not come easily after 60 years of audio rationalization, but I am deriving such joy from my system through the design phase, the step by step assembly as each new piece arrives and, most important hopefully listening bliss. The truth is, it is already beyond my expectation at this point. Oh yeah, one more thing. It has taken so long for this process and since everything is made to order, I have already paid for the entire system, eliminating the downer of having to write a check with the arrival of each piece.

I already had recently received a VAC Master Preamp that Kevin says is a slightly less robust design than the Statement Preamp and sounds almost as good and cost less than half as much as the $75,000.00 Statement Preamp. Since the Master Pre has a low output impedance and limited bandwidth because it is tubed, it is safe to use with the Spectral DMA 300RS amp, although I believe that the reverse would be more risky.

What a difference a few years make with regard to sound. The incredible speed and ultra-fast decay of the Spectral combo due to devices with minimal thermal tails started to grate on me and while very precise, it did not sound enough like real to me. That is why I had a tubed DAC in the ARC spinner and a Lamm tubed phono stage. I must say that I liked the VAC Master preamp with the Spectral DMA 300RS than with my former favorite Spectral DMC30SV preamp

During the past 18 months of design of this bucket list system that I realized I wanted to move more in the direction of tubes and less SS, because to me that comes closer to real, as I hear it. I do have to make a qualification at this point, because it is deserved and it may help you understand what I am trying to say. When I say “tubes” I am talking about the romance of the music and its believability—two very important facts for me. I have been around for a while and owned a lot of equipment, both SS and tube, and have tried various hybrid (mixture of SS and tubed gear) in different system locations as I tried to color my system to my desired sound.

I suppose I should define what I mean by “real”. As simply as I choose to define real with regard to music, real means that all of the spatial and tonal cues are so correct, that I buy the sound as sourcing in front of me in my own little world where my fantasies become real and my feelings of joy infinitely elevated. Of course, I cannot achieve this state if I am lost in my head (an occupational hazard.) However, when all is right and I am buying the sound in front of me as real, as it stirs up the feelings I associate with the music then I know I have gotten out of my head and have become much more relaxed. Hopefully in this state, where I am truly focused on the music, not my thoughts, the next piece of music created by my system will take me even deeper into my audio fantasy zone.

In March, 2018, I went to Axpona 2018 to meet Leif and Damon and to hear the Ultra 11 so I could form my own opinion about whether or not I found my bucket speaker or at least the company that will have my bucket list speaker in its product line. I remember the moment I first saw and heard the Ultra 11 and turned to my newly found friend Damon and said “so there they are”, as if I was speaking about some celebrity. The 11’s size is way too big for me and looks kind of transformer like. I did not like their sound at first, but the system was still breaking in. By that evening, the same system sounded so much better, more cohesive and approaching real. By the next morning it was now starting to be sweet, but still too strange and large for me.

THIS POST EXCEEDS THE CHARACTER LIMIT OF THIS SITE, SO THE CONCLUSION IS IN NEXT POST.

 
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Mobiusman

Well-Known Member
May 25, 2010
594
191
455
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#19
CONCLUSION TO THE PREVIOUS POST (SORRY)​

That night, the group had a private listening session hosted by Greg Weaver, who also quickly became a “long-term friend” as he reminisced about his life at the time he discovered each piece he was playing for the audience. That night I was up dancing and playing air guitar. I know I was not the only one feeling that way, because most pieces got applause, hoots and howls because the sound and total experience was totally in a different realm than all of the other exhibitors. Oh yeah, there were many people dancing with themselves in the room.

At breakfast Damon, Leif and I talked about the previous night, my musical revitalization and if there would be any chance of a smaller version of the Ultra 11 with a smaller price tag that would fit my listening space. Much to my pleasure, they both said “funny you should ask. We are designing a speaker that uses half of the Ultra 11 components per each channel, will be 60 inches tall instead of 7 ½ feet tall, and will “only” cost $200,000.00. No doubt the look on my face when I heard that the speaker I would probably want was twice my original budget before I bought any electronics or cables led both Leif and Damon to say that their VR55 Aktive would probably be fine for me and much less costly and not need such expensive electronics as the VAC Statement gear. The problem with this suggestion was I was already dissatisfied with a more reasonable system I had never heard! How could this be my bucket list system when I was already thinking about the system that would follow what they were describing.

I had already owned 4 ARC Reference preamps and Pass x-600 monoblocks for my Wisdom M 75’s for my tweeter/midrange drivers and Bryston 8B’s for the bass modules and a full loom of Nordost Valhalla wire. At that time I lived in Franklin Lakes, NJ in my marital home where I had built from scratch a reverse live end dead end sound room, with the live end behind the speakers using several tons of a quartz laden stone from Georgia that passed my listening test if it had a sufficient amount of quartz so that the stone sounded the way I wanted!

I loved that room and my house of 25 years where my kids grew up, but the truth of the matter is it was more impressive than real sounding. Then divorce came and I lived off of my sound system selliing piece at a time until my sound system was the radio in a 1996 Nissan Maxima after going bankrupt.

The more I listened to VSA, VAC, MB, Kronos, Lampizator, etc. mega-systems I kept coming away with what I was seeking was and is the sound of reality. For me the Ultra 9’s created this sensory state even more than the Ultra 11’s because for me the 11’s are too big soundig and especially too big for my current music room. The absolutely identical and extremely useful room tuning technology invented by Albert Von Schweikert at Cal Tech linked to an obsession to use the absolute lowest distortion EVERYTHING, including several days just eliminating cabinet resonances fairly quickly impressed on me that this over-the-top focus on eliminating distortion where ever possible, regardless of cost, is essential to approach and establish my desired sound of “you are there and thus it is real/reality.

Another clue that the speaker delivers on this front is essentially no fatigue, even if the source material is not ideal, because the ability to create the realness/reality is astounding in itself, and thus led to the conclusion that the sound was still special, just not bucket list special. However, that system’s playback capability linked with great source material very quickly produced an involuntary reaction to get out of my seat dancing and playing air guitar, since perception is reality, should I say at the recording session?

At high end music shows I tend to be quiet and on a mission for the best listening position in each room, and when properly seated, I perform my ultimate test---does it sound real or does it sound like a system? In my opinion, at a show, I would rather hear a great representation of reality, than wonderful program material on an expensive system. Give me the real thing, or at least the perception of reality anytime and I will find wonderful program material to listen to and be thrilled. The reverse is no where close to the same experience.

Of course while it is the speaker that gets blamed for all of the technology upstream, you know you have a great contender when the speaker is never the limiting factor in the system sound. Said another way, with every upstream improvement, the sound out of the speakers keeps getting better, rather than with most alleged high end “wonderful” speakers, which may sound very similar to their sibs, but merely bigger and grander as the price goes up. CERTAINLY NOT REAL!

Since this post has gotten too long, I will stop, but leave you with a teaser for the next installment. As the VAC pieces arrived individually since everything I was buying is made to order, I got to put in each piece one at a time and evaluate the impact on my new emerging system of each piece. This process allowed me to realize just how much I like VAC equipment at the level that I purchased.

There was one problem. I could not evaluate the ultimate impact of these changes with my Vivid Giya’s. So I bought a pair of Endeavor E3 Mk 2 speakers, VSA’s entry level speaker in their current line. I do have to say that at $10,000.00, instead of the $200,000.00 of the Ultra 9’s, I did not expect much, but knew that since all VSA speakers share the same sonic DNA, they would be a better indicator of what my bucket list system would sound like than with the Vivid Giya’s.

What I was not expecting was just how good the E3 Mk 2’s are. No, they are not Ultra 9’s, but they are good enough that today as I was writing this on my deck with my slider open listening to Queen, I repeatedly had to stop writing and return to my listening room so I could dance around, playing air guitar and air drums. This went on for about 90 minutes, making me realize with my new VAC electronics and merely my Red Book ARC CD Ref 9 and only MB speaker wire inserted, I had a system that exceeded all that I had owned previously and essentially all show systems I had heard to date, including the VSA, VAC, MB Esoteric megasystems.

As I wait for my Ultra 9’s ,Bergmann Galder/Odin turntable, my MSB DAC, my Innuous server and the rest of my MB loom to arrive, I will work on trying to figure how to get the 700 pound marble anti-vibration table that will hold my Bergamm up 5 steps into my house.

If you made it this far, thank you for hanging in. I hope that some of my realizations are helpful and that this will be my true bucket list system. I think that it will be because how do you get better than real, which I already have with backup VSA speakers that cost 5% of what is coming.

Von Schweikert Audio’s Ultra line, VAC Statement and Master electronics and a full loom of MasterBuilt cables are the ingredients for my bucket list system. I figure that my new system will sound even better than I expect, making it as close to real as I can imagine.
 
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