Ken Kessler's New Stereo System: Part Seven

SoundStage! UKBefore we get to the sound of the system we’ve been assembling over the past six months, a momentary pause. If the suspense is killing you, I’m afraid there’s no relief yet because, as much as I wanted to write about the system’s sound al fresco and sans accessories, sticking rigidly to the $6000 budget (plus or minus a few bucks), I found the system so capable and so revealing that its response to add-ons—e.g., upgrading the cables—became a distraction. The gains were too good to dismiss.

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Ken Kessler's New Stereo System: Part Six

SoundStage! UKBy now, for those who have been following this project for the past five months, we have collected the four key components. For you who are new to this series, the idea was, for a number of reasons, to put together a single-source system for $6000 (please check the previous five columns for the full mission statement) with a singular proviso: that any item would survive when it came time to upgrade any other part of the chain.

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Ken Kessler's New Stereo System: Part Five

SoundStage! UKWith the final stretch in sight, it is time for a recap, as I am at a loss to explain my recent inability to communicate, but it seems that I have failed to convey what this project represents. Ostensibly, simplistically, it is my attempt—and nothing more—at putting together a single-source system in 2021 for the same money spent when I was 16, the current equivalent of $700 (prices in USD unless indicated otherwise).

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Ken Kessler's New Stereo System: Part Four

SoundStage! UKThose who noticed a teaser a couple of columns ago that the speakers would be discussed the following month will have to wait until October 1, as I am holding them back as a surprise. Since we have so far discussed the power amplifier and phono stage (with output-level control, to serve as a preamp for the time being), I figured it was a perfect time to deal with the source, especially since some remaining hardcore flat earthers—hi-fi’s version of the Taliban—consider the front-end to be the most important element of all, the rest of the system be damned.

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Ken Kessler's New Stereo System: Part Three

SoundStage! UKWho knew that something as simple as putting together a fantasy system would give me such a headache? It didn’t take long before some of you challenged me: “Why not amp X?” or “Why not amp Y?” Perhaps I should have been clearer about my intentions. This exercise in system-creating is not to establish some must-own concoction but to emphasise precisely the opposite: that there exists an infinite number of choices. Indeed, I will be surprised if, after this series concludes, anyone on the planet puts together the same package.

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Ken Kessler's New Stereo System: Part Two

SoundStage! UKSome of you might object to the notion of a hi-fi system as “a work in progress,” and up to a point, I concur. With a new system or even the purchase of a single component, you shouldn’t be thinking about anything beyond getting it home, setting it up, and looking forward to many years of musical pleasure. Unfortunately, most audiophiles are infected with a disease called “upgrade-itis,” an obsessive, near-psychotic need to renew or refresh one’s system in perpetuity. It’s what keeps the hi-fi industry going, as cars once did with the planned obsolescence of annual model changes.

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Ken Kessler's New Stereo System: Part One

SoundStage! UKOver the decades, readers have never ceased to remind me that hi-fi reviewers—like automotive journalists, theatre/film/restaurant critics, and others of that ilk—are spoiled thanks to the perks of the job. Become a respected car magazine contributor, and you’ll probably never need to buy a vehicle because you’ll always be testing one or another. Restaurant critic? Your main worry will be your waistline.

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Reel-to-Reel for Life

SoundStage! UKIf you were around as a sentient adult audiophile during any time between circa 1970 and circa 1990, and you bought into tube equipment, you were probably one nervous wreck. I know I was: I had started using and ultimately collecting tube gear around 1975, and every snap, crackle, or pop made me wonder if I could find new or even old-stock replacement tubes should any fail.

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Remembering the Cassette and Its Inventor, Lou Ottens

SoundStage! UKWith the way the Grim Reaper has been harvesting of late, there is nothing coincidental, ironic, or remarkable about two of audio’s most inventive individuals leaving us these past few months, so closely together. It is simply a sad sign of the times. I am starting to get the tiniest whiff of what it must have been like during the Great Plague of 1665 and have stopped counting friends and acquaintances lost this year, let alone the litany of recently deceased celebrities who made the news.

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Retro Hi-Fi in Several Forms

SoundStage! UKLovers of retro come in two types. They are not mutually exclusive, but most of the retro-addicts I know are absolutists, one way or the other. There are (1) those brave enough to employ actual, vintage items, and (2) those who prefer the peace of mind offered by brand-new products which are retro in concept but otherwise modern. Examples include running an original Fiat 500 or Mini vs. buying a new one; wearing a 1940s British military watch or choosing one of the recent replicas; and, of course, listening to aged hi-fi equipment or only to current models.

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