High end stereo music system setup guide

All from experience, some more expensive than others... First, the don'ts. You can follow this section, or learn it the hard way like I did... DON'T
  • Subwoofer(s) (I think I lost close to a thousand bucks now buying and selling them. *sigh*)
  • Audyssey (XT32 and DynamicEQ) (They work great on a low end system, on the high end they totally do not work)
  • Use more than 1 circuit (if the components are electrically connected with each other)
  • CFL injects massive amounts of noise (Get a power line noise meter from Alpha Labs, on my base power line noise of 200mV, 1 CFL added 50mV, while another one adds 200mV!)
Some are common sense, but some are counter intuitive...


  • The bigger the room the better it sounds.
  • 2 Floorstanding speakers
  • XLR interconnects
  • Basic power strip only
  • Balanced power (this is the key)
  • Ground everything
  • Check house ground resistance
  • Bi-wire is better than single wire (if the speaker supports it/has 2 crossover boards)
  • Try corner placement with 45 degree toe-in
  • Go for low gain amplifiers
  • Go for high efficiency speaker designs (you really need this if you listen mainly to instrumentals)
  • Spike the speaker into the ground, ideally this is part of the speaker design.
  • Space equipment far apart from each other. Use a magnetic meter (Trifield) to help guide you.
  • jplay, if you ever had the PC music doesn't sound quite right issue, jplay will fix it.
  • Linear power supply (previous one I had did not have proper grounding)
  • Power conditioner/noise reduction device (noise reduction device should be used before a balanced transfomer, otherwise it will kill dynamics)
  • Things that work for the high end (but does not matter at the low end) tend to have detractors. Use that as a guide.
Some readings:


http://www.belden.com/blog/broadcastav/Ground-Loops.cfm (lifting the ground turns the cable into frequency filters)

My current audio system: Directstream DAC -> Pass Labs XA30.8 -> KEF R700

PC source: Foobar2000 + ASIO -> jplay -> Peachtree X1 -> optical

This should lead to a fun interesting discussion, especially as a number of your findings do not match with many others. :)

Elk said This should lead to a fun interesting discussion, especially as a number of your findings do not match with many others. :)
My thoughts exactly. In fact, I thought we might be getting "trolled" with a couple of the "absolutes" listed. Maybe that's why the response is muted, thus far.

What I found so far is that without balanced power, observation is too variable due to power quality changes by the hour/days. Ever had the feeling that music sounds different during day/night?

Another new one I discovered regarding bi-wiring:


The two wires needs to be separated by a distance to really work. The FAQ also describes what I come to realize, that room correction is counter productive for high end system.

Also, to really make sense of some of the findings above, one needs to understand more about just what is electricity and energy flow.



OK, I’ll bite … (I’m avoiding the use of bullets so as to not incur the wrath of the ruminant)

First off, for the Don’ts; I would definitely not write off subwoofers. Yes they can be hard to integrate, but they can solve problems. Paul is big on the use of subwoofers. I would also not limit myself to one electrical circuit, depending on the current draw you may be better off with multiple circuits. I would try to keep them on the same leg of the breaker box, though.

For the Do’s; bigger rooms are better in a sense, but the proportions of the room are as important, maybe more so. The build up of standing waves and reflections are a major issue in the typical audio room. XLR connectors are better, IF the source component and receiving component are truly balanced. Just because there are XLR connectors doesn’t mean the component is truly balanced. PS Audio as well as other manufacturers make some excellent power strips that are beyond the “basic” type. The use of balanced power is nice, but somewhat rare. Modifying incoming power is a matter of how bad your power is to begin with. Bi-wiring of speakers is a controversial topic, but I have been a devotee of Vandersteen speakers for over 20 years and Richard Vandersteen has promoted bi-wiring from the start. I won’t argue with Richard. He has always recommended separate runs too. Speaker placement is very room dependant (and a very personal) decision. Different speakers have different radiation patterns which impact how they perform in a given room. Always a good idea to experiment with speaker location.

Finally, the only absolute in high end audio (and a lot of other things too) is someone will always disagree with your absolutes!

pmotz said ...(I'm avoiding the use of bullets so as to not incur the wrath of the ruminant)...

Continued to experiment with different configs, and I got to the Equitech 3RQ is the key to sound quality. The difference is just beyond huge.

This is for Coli. About the do’s and don’t! Regarding the use of subwoofers or not.I had to tell ya that I have the Infinity Epsilon’s which are a fabulous pair of speakers! But truthfully I couldn’t listen to them without my 8 HSU Subwoofers! 8 you say, I most be mad.Or deaf. But to really feel the depth of your music pleasure, it has to be incorporated with good low end EAR pressure! My HSU’s go down to 16 Hertz. If you say theirs nothing down there! But you feel it when there’s something close! It did take a bit of tweaking to get the Right balance! First the speakers were sounding perfectly. Then the subs didn’t! But after much manipulations! I found the best balance for both world’s! I think I need only a little more diffusion, other than that I’m pretty happy Wear it lays! I’ll see if I can post a couple of pictures! Happy listening!!20150622_131805.jpg20150602_151317.jpg