As mentioned elsewhere I am playing around with some options on the playback part of my system. It’s all Fredrik’s fault! These blasted Tundra Mono 2s are so good that hearing how musical they were with 25+ year old Isobariks made me doubt my mighty ATCs. So for over a year I’ve been looking for a pair of ATC100 passive crossovers that wouldn’t cost me the $1000 dealer price the importers quoted me. At last I found a pair on eBay that came with the needed aluminum back panels and five-way binding posts for a fair bit less including shipping. So I picked them up and posted a photo of one here.
Well, last weekend I decided it was time to give them an initial listen. So I picked out three quite different tracks to play for the comparisons. The tracks/ musicians /records are: American Idiot by Green Day from the album of the same name, a potent and solid rocker, Paper Airplane by Alison Krauss & Union Station also from the album of the same name which is a somewhat melancholy and mellow bluegrass piece with wonderful vocals, and Clarissa by Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow and Bobbie Previte off The New Standard album - a really bopping jazz piece. All three of these albums are highly recommended and The New Standard is something special as I have mentioned before.
The system is as it has been for a while LP12 Movingui, Radikal A, Keel, Ekos SE/1, Kandid, Urika through Sagatun Mono 1.1s and into the ATC SCM100ASLs. Stands are Harmoni with a Mimer K under the LP12, Tor under all the rest and reference bottoms. Cables are Linn Silvers, Linn Longwell AC and Lejonklou AC and a CablePro outlet strip with a Linn Longwell cable going in. Burned in LLTOK 2.48m K200s were used for passive.
First I played these three tracks, in the order listed, on the active ATCs. Then I stuffed in the passive crossovers and played the same tracks in reverse order. It obviously was not an instantaneous A/B but it turned out it didn’t need to be. That is because, as you likely will have heard, the Tundra Mono 2s passive were easily more musical than the ATC active amps/crossovers. This is what the two audio clips I posted here were about and the finding has been unanimous – including Debbie and myself. In case you didn’t hear them yet, the page where I posted them is here:
The darker video doesn’t just show that the system sounds better in the dark – it is the one with the Tundra Mono 2s passive. The lighter video is the ATCs active. As you can hear, even over crummy computer speakers, on the TM2/ATC combo it is easier to follow the instruments, they sound more like real instruments (and voices in the other tracks) and the tracks were just plain more fun. This held true on all three tracks equally.
What is even more surprising (OK maybe more to me than to Fredrik or Ron the Mon) is that the passive crossover setup was at a distinct disadvantage and was still more musical. First off, although I received the passive crossovers and the back panels, I didn’t get any hardware to mount them inside the cabinets. And the cabinets don’t have that hardware as the active amp/crossover packs are mounted directly to the aluminum panel/heat sink as shown in my photo. The passive crossovers are meant to be mounted to the box built inside the cabinet to house it or the amp pack. So when I say above that I “stuffed" the passive crossovers in there I mean exactly that. I plugged them in and stuck them in the back with that 3” tall coil holding them upright and then bolted on the back panel and plugged in the TM2s. Obviously this does allow them to move around a bit which is less than ideal. Secondly the Tundras, as they are US standard 120 Volt units, are plugged into another strip into the same circuit as the rest of the living room. The rest of the system is plugged into a dedicated 240 volt circuit and the CablePro. Third, the Tundras had only been on a couple of hours before I played them. This is probably a more minor consideration as when I checked them after 24 hours one was dead nuts 20.3 volts and the other was 20.1 so pretty close to ideal PS settings. The ATC amp/crossover packs had been powered up for at least a week as I normally always keep them, and the whole system, powered on. So they should have been performing optimally.
So even with a bit of a handicap the TM2s passive ruled the day (damn Fredrik). ;-) So now I have to get a pair of 240 volt TM2s coming and figure out how to fit my eight components on my six rack spaces! However, the story doesn’t even end there. After doing those two A/Bs it occurred to me to make a comparison with a much longer space between. A couple of weeks ago I was possessed by a need to hear Witch’s Promise off of Living in the Past by Jethro Tull. This is a favorite track of mine, although I also love the Thick as a Brick, Aqualung and Benefit albums. It is track 4 on side one so I just started to play the whole side. Part way through track three Debbie walked in the room and said “You know, this sounds a bit annoying.” Now we don’t always have the same taste in music and I am definitely much more into progressive rock but I had to agree with her that it was annoying so I skipped forward to Witch’s Promise as I still wanted to hear it. It is not as energetic as some of the other tracks so it wasn’t as annoying but it still wasn’t great. Then I decided that I also really wanted to hear Dharma for Once which is on side 3 so I put it on. It was also rather annoying but I listened to the whole 9 minutes plus anyway. I have to say it was more of a chore than a pleasure. The whole thing made me wonder if the stylus was clean (it was) or tracking at the right pressure (yep). So I just put the album away and didn’t think a whole lot about it. (How many can already see where this is going?) You’re right, I pulled out Living in the Past and put on Dharma for One and guess what? It wasn’t annoying! As a matter of fact it was rather enjoyable. The TM2s/passive made a track enjoyable that was annoying on the ATC active amp pack! So I went back and put on Witch’s Promise and that also was quite good.
Then as I’m listening to Witch’s Promise it occurs to me that Fredrik and I had a difference of opinion on the damping of the Harmoni reference shelf. As I posted elsewhere on the forum I had tested the Dacron fiber mat that Anders had sent me but found the Linn Trampolin packaging foam more musical. I even detailed the process of finding the exact dimensions of the foam that were the best. Well I spied the big piece of Dacron fiber and, even though I think it is a bigger piece than what is recommended, I decide to try it again. Guess what?! It was easily more musical with the Dacron than with the plastic foam. The flute in the peace was clearly more tuneful – the notes and the trills clearly better played. I had Debbie come out and give a listen to the same A/B with the same piece of music without telling her what I had changed and she heard the same improvements (and she didn’t find it annoying). Now that the TM2s were driving the speakers the improvement was obvious. So, ya, Fredrik was right again. (Doesn’t it bug you when somebody is always right like that!) ☺ (That would be a big, toothy smile if we still had emoticons on here.)
So there you go. And we haven’t even gotten to the JBLs yet. Fredrik is going to make my system not just more complicated but uglier as well! The nerve of the man insisting on telling me how to get the most musical system!
Anyway, the ATC active amp packs will only go back inside the speakers if and when I decide to sell them. Meanwhile I will be getting some screws and standoffs so I can mount the crossovers properly in the speakers and really hear what this setup can do. That way it will be a fair comparison when the 3677s are ready and have correct stands. And once all that is done it appears I will have to change my signature on the Linn forum and the equipment listing on here.