Steven Stone's Review Backgrounder

Steven Stone -- Tue, 11/17/2009 - 15:36

 Musical interests:

Bluegrass, American roots, contemporary acoustic music, folk music, singer/songwriters, symphonic music, chamber music

Listening concerns:
1. Realism triggers – Inner detail, spatial and dimensional presentation, harmonic accuracy, dynamic micro and macro contrast

2. Realism inhibitors – artificiality caused by excessive high frequency emphasis, box resonances, poor bass representation, electronic grain and texture, homogenization of inner details
Large Room - Rectangle, 24.94’ x 23.46’ x 7.88’ with a concrete floor and plywood subfloor over most of the room – the sub-floor is filled with acoustic dampening and the sub floor has 2/4 studs on their sides for support so it is only 2’ over the concrete. The purpose of this floor is two-fold. It changes the ceiling height so that the prime seated listening position height does not end up a 4’ in an 8’ high room, which would be the worst place to be in terms of room resonances. Also it eliminates the problems that concrete floors create in the bass region of excessive hardness, bonkiness and midrange and upper frequency floor bounce. The floor is also carpeted and I use thick Persian rugs in primary floor reflection areas. I also use a pair of ASC tube trap half-rounds on the floor in front of the main reflection point of the center speaker to reduce floor bounce. All the walls and ceiling except for the rear wall use ¾ wallboard The rear wall uses a special acoustical wallboard designed to be lossy so that bass frequencies can pass through and not be contained in the room as well as conventional wallboard. This again reduces bass node build-ups. I also use ASC wall treatments at precise intervals, ASC tube traps in the corners and beside the projection screen and two large custom built first reflection absorbers that also serve as CD racks holding 1000 CDs each. 
Power supplied by 2 dedicated 20 amp, 120VAC circuits with Hospital-grade AC outlets.
Equipment in the large room:
Speakers: Dunlavy SC VI speakers L/R, Dunlavy SV IV speaker for center, Dunlavy SC IAV speakers for rears. Genesis Advanced Technologies G-928 subwoofers (2), EarthQuake SuperNova mk V 15’ subwoofers (2), Snell THX 550 passive subwoofers driven by Bryston Powerpack 120 amplifier (2),
Electronics: Pass Labs X-3 power amplifier for L/R/C speakers, Bel Canto M-300 for rear L/R speakers, Meridian 568.2 preamp, Meridian 518 digital signal processor,
Cables: Synergistic Designer’s Reference speaker cables and balanced interconnects (for front three channels) Various AC power, digital coaxial, and interconnect cables from AudioQuest, Wire World, Kimber, Audio Magic, PS Audio, XLO, Monster,
AC Gear: PS Audio Premier Power Plant AC power regenerator (for front end devices) Chang Lightspeed CLS 6400 (for power amps) Quiet Line AC noise suppressors (8), PS Audio Noise Harvesters (4), Shakti Stones (3),
Sources: VPI TNT III on VPI stand with Brightstar sand base and Brightstar air base, VPI PLC, Graham 2.1 tonearm, ClearAudio Victory cartridge, Vendetta Research SC-2b phono preamp, Solid isolation power supply for Vendetta unit, Meridian 598 CD player with Meridian MHR smart-link connection, Logitech Squeezebox Duet wireless digital media player with Channel Islands Audio VDC 9 power supply, Direct TV HR-20, Sony BDP-S300 BluRay player, Oppo 981H DVD player, Toshiba HD A-1 DVD-HD player, Sony PCM 701 recorder/player with Sony SL-2710 recorder for PCM F1 tapes, Pioneer D-05 DAT recorder/player, Pioneer PDR-555RW CDR recorder/player, Pioneer MJ-D-508 mini-disk recorder/player, Pioneer CT-93 Dolby S/C/D cassette player, Pioneer CLD-D704 laserdisc player, two Revox A-77 reel-to-reel recorders, Grado RS-1 headphones, Sony HW-50 projector, Stewart 91’ diagonal 4x3 aspect ratio Studiotek 130 screen masked to 16 x 9 format.
Computer Audio Room – Rectangle 13’ 3” x 9’ 1” x 7’ 11” with 8’ x 3’ setback filled with file cabinets with concrete floor covered by wall to wall carpet,. ¾ wallboard with 3M “Quiet Line” insulation material between the 18” spaced studs. Room treatment includes ¾ thick industrial felt on the computer work surface, 3” thick free-standing 1’x1’ acoustic foam squares at the back of the desk area and two 2’ by 2’ RoomTunes ceiling clouds above seating area.
Equipment in computer audio room:
Source Devices: EAD 8000 Pro CD/DVD player and transport, CEC TL-2 CD Transport, MacPro model 1.1 Intel Xeon 2.66 GHz computer with 14 GB of memory with OS 10.6.2, running iTunes 8.2 and Amarra 1.1 music playing software
DACS: Empirical Audio Off-Ramp 3, Bel Canto DAC 3, April Music Stello DA-100, Perpetual Technologies PA-1, Weiss Minerva DAC, Bel Canto 96/24 converter box
Preamps: Reference Line Preeminence One B passive controller
Amplifiers: Bel Canto S-300 stereo amplifier, Accuphase P-300 power amplifier, Edge Electronics AV-6 amplifier, Modified Dyna St-70 amplifier, April Music Stello Ai 500
Speakers: Joseph Audio Pulsars, ATC SCM7s, Paradigm S1s, Aerial Acoustics 5Bs, Role Audio Kayaks, Earthquake Supernova mk IV 10 subwoofer
Cables and Accessories: Locus Design Polestar USB cable, Locus Design Nucleus USB cable, PS Audio Quintet, AudioQuest CV 4.2 speaker cable, AudioQuest Colorado interconnect, Empirical Audio Coax digital cable.
Family Room – A rectangle within a larger room. The main room is 24’ 7” x 29’ 6” x 9’, but the listening area is 13’ by 14’ by 9’. Flooring is a Mannington laminate over plywood over concrete. The walls have ASC SoundPanels on the front wall and tube traps in the corners and as  room dividers behind the listening position. 18” diameter tube traps are also used as speaker stands for the rear speakers in this room. The ceiling is treated with six evenly-spaced 2’ x 2’ Room Tunes clouds.
Equipment in the family room:

Source Devices: EAD 8000 Pro CD/DVD player and transport, CEC TL-2 CD Transport, Sonos Z-90, Apple TV, Oppo BDP-83, Direct TV HR-20, Sony XDR-F1HD tuner, Monarchy Audio DIP Combo, Sony BDP-S300 BluRay player, Technics SV-DA10 DAT recorder/player, VPI HRW-19 Turntable with extensive mods, PLC power supply, Souther SLA-3 tonearm, Denon/VanDenHul 103D cartridge, Michael Yee pfe-1 preamp,
Preamps: Lexicon MC-12B HD w/V 2.0 firmware.
Amplifiers: Bel Canto M-1000 II monoblock amplifies (3) for L/C/R, Bel Canto S-300 (1) for rear L/R,
Speakers: Genesis 6.1 speakers system with 6.1 R/L, 6.1C center, and 6.1 SR rear  R/L, AV123 X-Static w/Ninja Msster QXX upgrade, Av123  Voce center speaker w/Ninja Elite upgrade, Genesis 4/8 subwoofer, Genesis S 2/12 T subwoofers (2), JL Labs F112 subwoofers (2)
Cables and Accessories: Synergistic Designer’s Reference XLR interconnects and speaker cables, Monster HTPS 7000 and Monster AVS 2000 AC conditioners, PS Audio Quintets and Duets for all power amplifiers, Arcici suspension rack,
Video Equipment: Optoma HD-80 projector, DVDO Edge video processor, Screen Research Nova screen
Music Background: 
Played guitar from age 10. Professional giging during college including short stints with Bo Diddley and the Muddy Water Blues Bands. Took up the mandolin in 1996. Currently play mandolin, mandola and guitar with the Knapweed bluegrass band. 

Primary live interests/venues: Boulder Macky auditorium where I have been the recording engineer for the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra since 1994, Rockygrass Bluegrass Academy and Festival

Guitars: 1936 Martin 000-18, 2002 Gibson Advanced Jumbo, 2009 Gibson J-45 TV, Composite Acoustics Bluegrass Performer, 2004 Gibson L-7C, 1960 Guild M-20, Gibson Johnny A signature #43, Guild F-512, 1977 Ibanez Johnny Smith
Mandolins: 1930 Gibson F-5, 2001 Gibson F-5 varnished Fern, 1997 Gilchrist F-5, 2004 Hilburn F-5, 2008 Lebada A-4 Deluxe, 2007 Eastman 615 mandola, Kaycraft octave mandolin, Eastwood electric mandolin
I’ll supply some room pix in a few days…

Sam -- Tue, 11/17/2009 - 15:39

Very good information! The pics of rooms/equipment would also be nice!

Steven Stone -- Sat, 11/21/2009 - 15:09

 Here are a bunch of photographs of my large listening room.













Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

Cemil Gandur -- Mon, 11/23/2009 - 03:47

You didn't put pictures of the guitars :(

Sam -- Mon, 11/23/2009 - 12:12

WOW! Very impressive CD and especially LP collection.  Thanks for the pics.

Steven Stone -- Mon, 11/23/2009 - 18:08

 Guitars and pictures of the other systems to come later - I've got some end-of-month deadlines to deal with first.

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

Francis Leung (not verified) -- Mon, 11/23/2009 - 18:36

What a wonderful array of equipment and discs.
May I ask all THREE reviewers to put an asterisk against the equipment that they bought and own. By that we will know what are on loan from manufacturers. 

Steven Stone -- Mon, 11/23/2009 - 18:54

You can ask, but I'm not in the mood to answer.

If something is more than a couple of years old, I own it.

I will let you look around my room, but not let you nose around my closets...

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

firedog -- Tue, 11/24/2009 - 06:53

 Big room - Great room. Great equipment. I hope a get to a room like that someday. Enjoy!
When exactly  did you play with Muddy Waters? I might have seen you.
Question about the PS Audio noise harvesters - do they make an audible difference? Or viewable difference?


Steven Stone -- Tue, 11/24/2009 - 09:55

 First on Muddy Waters. I played two memorable (for me anyway) gigs with his band in 1973 in Boston. One in Roxbury and the other in Cambridge.
As to the noise harvesters. When I first got them I did my standard test - plug in my Pioneer LD-704 LD player (which has the noisiest and worst AC power supply I've ever heard) and then use a Noise-sniffer to measure the noise. Then I plugged in a noise harvester and listened to the noise level. The harvester knocked down the AC noise substantially.
I notice that a different times of the day the blue LEDs on the harvesters are more active than at other times. I haven't been able to correlate their activity to any devices in my system or home generating more AC noise. 

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

Steven Stone -- Tue, 11/24/2009 - 19:14

 Here are some pictures of my office desktop system. The speakers are the Adam A5 speakers that have been set up for about 48 hrs. The radio-like thingie is a police/fire band radio - I'm the radio base for my local volunteer fire department




Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

John F (not verified) -- Sun, 11/29/2009 - 08:56

Thank you for posting the photos and providing your equipment information.  It's very helpful in understanding your reviews.
I'm considering the A-5s for my nearfield computer listening, but not sure whether to go with the matching sub (which I see in your photo) or no sub at all.  What has been your experience so far with the A-5s and sub?

Steven Stone -- Sun, 11/29/2009 - 09:57

I would suggest also checking out the NHT M-OO and S-OO as well.

The Adam sub is compact and well-designed, but it is more a mid-bass transducer than a sub.

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

Steven Stone -- Sun, 12/20/2009 - 15:24

 Here's some more pix.
First some of the desktop system with ATC SCM7 monitors driven by the April Music Stello AI500 integrated amplifier.
Then some pictures of my upstairs "small room" sytstem, which currently holds Skiing Ninja-modified X-Static and Voce front speakers, two JL Labs Fathom F-112 subwoofers, the Genesis Advanced System's 4/8 subwoofer, Bel Canto M-1000 II amplifiers for the front three channels and Bel Canto S-300 for the rear two channels, Genesis 6.1 SR surround speakers, two Genesis 2/12 subwoofers, Screen Innovations/ DNP Nova screen, Lexicon MC-12B HD, Lexicon BD-30, Apple TV, Sonos ZP-90, Direct TV HD-20, extensively modified VPI HW-19 with Souther SLA-3 arm and Denon/VanDenHul 103 Cartridge, Michael Yee PFE-1 phono preamp, VPI PLC, Monster AVS 2000 and AVS 5000, Cardas Clear XLR/XLR interconnect, Synergistic Research Designer's Reference speaker cables, ASC Tube Traps, Wall Absorbers, and Free-standing side units, Wii, Wii balance board, 60's Afgan rug, 1890's sofa.











Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

bixby (not verified) -- Mon, 12/28/2009 - 16:04

What base is the turntable sitting on?  I have big problems with needle bouncing since my floor is suspended above basement and wondered if there was a reasonably priced base that would correct this issue.  Otherwise it means wall mount and that is not waf approved for the living room.

Steven Stone -- Mon, 12/28/2009 - 18:48

In my big downstairs system my VPI TNT III (or IIIB) is sitting on a VPI stand with a Brightstar TNT base and air suspension base.

In my smaller system the VPI HW-19 is sitting on a RoomTunes stand and Brightstar base.

For your situation I would try an air bladder suspension to isolate the table. I've used Brightstar's air bases with great sucess, Or if you are the DIY type you could get a bicycle inner tube and build your own.

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

Sam -- Mon, 12/28/2009 - 17:54

Steven, what is the name of the rack that your turntable is sitting on. The base looks like brightstar but what is the racks name?

Steven Stone -- Mon, 12/28/2009 - 18:51

Hello Sam,

Hopefully my response to the previous poster will answer your questions as well.

Although I'd be the first to admit I'm not a fanatic when it comes to isolation and resonance control, turntables do require some form of isolation from bass transients and folks hopping about on pogo sticks.

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

Breuninger (not verified) -- Thu, 03/04/2010 - 20:10

I see you are a bachelor!!!
My best!

CraigO (not verified) -- Sat, 05/08/2010 - 22:43

Ha! That is exactly what I was thinking as I looked through the pictures.

Steven Stone -- Sun, 05/09/2010 - 09:25

Actually, I've been married for over fourteen years (who's counting?)

I also have my 17-year old and 21 year old nieces living here (for the past two years).

In the pix of the smaller system you can see the row of tube-traps. On the other side of the wall is my wife's half of the living room.

I also have eight cats that sleep on a lot of gear. I have cat beds on the popular spots to catch any leakage of feline fluids ( my version of an auto-cut-off valve.)

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

Peter K (not verified) -- Thu, 05/20/2010 - 01:19

Hello Steven,

A very impressive music room! I have a question about the acoustic part though; the A4 Lebada mandolin. How does it hold between two Gibsons and a Gilchrist? I own a Eastman 804 two pointer and am looking for an upgrade.

Steven Stone -- Thu, 05/20/2010 - 09:15

The Lebeda is a fine instrument. Giri Lebeda builds a very well-made mandolin. It is an oval hole, and has a very different sound than my f-hole instruments.

I bought it for times when I play in a mandolin duo - the Lebeda gives me a contrasting tonal color to an F-style with a rich deep lower register (for an mandolin).

It is not as successful for bluegrass - it has a decent chop, but not quite what I need.

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

Clark (not verified) -- Thu, 05/20/2010 - 11:40

This is great! I wondered if there could be another audiophile who has a SVHS VCR, Mini-disc, and LaserDisc players on the same rack as his hifi. (all of which get occassional use) Glad to see I'm not the only one!

Steven Stone -- Thu, 05/20/2010 - 12:06

 My # 1 audio Maxim is:
Software drives hardware.
If you have a certain critical mass of software for a particular format, it's far easier to keep using that format rather than copy it onto a newer format. Copying it would take too much time.

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

JA FANT -- Fri, 10/29/2010 - 23:37

Outstanding pics!

GFUNK -- Fri, 01/20/2012 - 16:32

I had a question I would like to ask you by email but I could not find an email address on the site.  Is there an address I can send it to?  

hltf -- Fri, 10/19/2012 - 07:02

I have a highly resolving system and am using tubed electronics and a W4S DAC-2.  All aspects of sound from digital playback from this excellent DAC are greatly improved by using very high quality power conditioning. That said, I do hear in certain music involving upper mid-range and treble vocals a hardness and  sometimes a scratchy metallic effect.  These are some (but certainly not all) recordings with soprano and certain others with high tenor and countertenor vocals.   I wonder if you have any ideas about how to address this.  For example, which of the following would you suggest: (a) try a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base under DAC and MacMini server, (b) try a high quality Empirical Audio jitter reducing USB convertor, (c) try a DAC with apodizing filters such as Bricasti, (d) switch to a tubed DAC such as Wavelength, (e) some combination of the above, (f) or something else altogether such as another DAC etc.
I should mention that I have benefited from your advice on DAC matters in the past.  Thanks a lot. Hasan

Steven Stone -- Fri, 10/19/2012 - 07:41

Hello Fltf,

You are assuming the problem is with your digital front end. It could be, but it could be "micro clips" from your amp or even from the some of the recordings. If you use Pure Music you could load the Roger Nichols Clip meter plug in, which can detect overages that won't show on a VU meter. I would also try the Tranquility base, it may make it so you will be listening at slightly lower levels due to the reduction in electronic noise.

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

hltf -- Fri, 10/19/2012 - 21:19

Thanks very much for the advice Steve.

hltf -- Sun, 11/18/2012 - 00:15

I tried out the Tranquility Base and thought it worked very well with the W4S DAC2. Most things improve dramatically, so it is a very effective upgrade. However, I believe you are right, some of my problems are with the recordings in question. Thanks once again for the help.

brion -- Mon, 03/25/2013 - 18:10

I'm glad that you use ASC half-round tube traps on the floor. I had suggested this to Robert Harley. ASC recomments using them (half-rounds) on ANY floor, reflective side towards the speaker. i found that, in my basement, which is only 7' 6" high, that putting Armstrong RT-6 (the stuff you put in walls to insulate them, so I might have the model number wrong) and putting the 9" half-rounds on rugs in front of the speaker eliminated a lower midrange honkiness (maybe it was upper bass, but I just listened to music, not measurements, so I may be wrong abouthe frequency. However, it affected marching drums and baritone singers, so I'd have to say lower midrange/upper bass frequencies). it cured it extremely well. 
You're about the only reviewer to use the half-rounds. I noticed this as  I was looking through all the reviewer backgrounds just now. What made you think of using the half-rounds on the floor? ASC suggested it to me, but i'd never seen anyone else use them in that way. I have around 40 tube traps (started using them in 1988, when I had WATTS. I remember Dave Wilson thought it shameful that my dealer had sold me $10K worth of tube traps, but I know a hell of a lot more about how to use them than most, including pushing them down the wall in teeny, tiny increments (hard to even see with the naked eye, but MAN, does the sound get better - or worse, if you push them too far in the wrong direction!) and then changing the orientation of the seam for more/less absorption. How long have you used them?

Steven Stone -- Mon, 03/25/2013 - 18:22

John Dunlavy was always talking about floor bounce, so using half-rounds to attenuate the midrange portion of the bounce seemed like a sensible idea. Currently I'm not using half rounds on the floor because I have a male cat who decided they were an ideal thing to mark. They got ruined.

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

reactor -- Sun, 03/31/2013 - 17:54

I bought a pair of Dunlavy VI's way back and your review sealed the deal. I am getting a little worried about their age and finding replacements drivers, although I have never blown any yet to this point. Have you burned out any drivers and if so were you able to find suitable replacements? Should I be considering the VI's because of their age? What would you recommend replacing them with?

Steven Stone -- Sun, 03/31/2013 - 18:07

Hello Arthu,

My SC-VI have never had any of their drivers replaced, except early on when a Rowland amp took out both tweeters - an easy replacement. All the drivers in the SC-VI were and are off-the shelf with no mods, so replacements are easy. The only parts I have needed to replace were the grill cover cloth - again I found a nice thin stretchy fabric and it was a simple job - And when I listen seriously the grills come off...

No, I don't see why you would replace the Dunlavys if they are working and fit your room...

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

reactor -- Mon, 04/01/2013 - 12:12

Thats good news. I keep reading once you lose a driver in a Dunlavy product you are done.This of course being about his time alligned crossover with the each driver matched precisely etc etc. Obviously a scary proposition if true that an off the shelf driver just would not cut it. I would love to keep the Duns forever as long as if any of the drivers go, I can replace them.

Steven Stone -- Mon, 04/01/2013 - 12:21

 The issue with Dunlavy drivers is consistency. Dunlavy would test and match pairs of drivers, and he rejected a lot of drivers because their output levels were not equal to his reference drivers.
I keep a couple of Dunlavy-certified tweeters - not to use in a speaker, but to use for testing new tweeters to make sure they are similar output to the originals if I need to replace a tweeter. As I mentioned in the last post, this only happened to me once.

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

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