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Posted by gustav at 11:01PM, Tuesday, December 02nd, 2003

Adventures in Hi Fi, continued

I just put together a stereo for the kitchen out of Rega, Naim, and Linn equipment I had sitting around. It's much better than I expected, and relatively cheap, too.

This system is made up of: the first-generation Planet CD player from Rega -- I think mine's from about 1998; a Naim 32.5 preamp with a 140 amp; and a pair of Linn Kans from about 1984. It's an all-British system (except for the speaker cables, which are You-Do-It Electronics' finest zip cord. The interconnects are just what came with the Naims.) Everything but the Planet I got used. All of it you can find pretty easily on places like audiogon.com and eBay. And it rocks out.

I'm always really happy to find bargains out there -- stuff like my Micromega Duo DAC, which, for something more than ten years old, wonkily French, and cheaper than a cheezy DVD player, sounds damn fine. Or the Shure V15, which, even new, is the cheapest path to vinyl bliss I've experienced -- a $300 American-made cartridge that sounds better than any multi-thousand-dollar imported moving coil I've heard.

I had expected similar things of the Rega products, from all the hype in print and on the net, but never been really impressed. The P25 turntable, and the RB600 arm, which I mounted on my LP12, both sounded a little bleached, bassless, spitty, and generally uninvolving. The Planet had, too, last time I'd used it -- fronting either my then-all-Linn system, or the big Naims I've got in the living room. It really didn't like the Linn amps; it sounded very brittle, bright, dry, and spitty. I'm sure part of that is my big Kaber speakers only liking CD players that come really close to the quality of a good LP12 turntable. But on this little system, the Planet sounds fantastic.

It's funny that I'd always thought the 32.5 preamp sounded a lot like the Rega before. I like the newer NAC 72 preamp I've got in the main system quite a bit better. Not that I'd really complain a lot for the $325 I paid, but the 32.5 just never did it for me. It was always too cold compared to the Linn amps or the 72. I held onto it because it's got a mono switch, which the 72 doesn't, and I can always use it as a spare. Sounds great in this little system, though.

This is a nice demonstration of system synergy. Stuff that I thought all sounded similarly thin and cold (except for the NAP 140 power amp), when put in a system together, has a completely different sound. It's light, agile, adequately bassy in a fast and boomless way, and not really bright or tiring at all. We can have a lot of fun now cooking to the Dead, or old Dylan. It wouldn't necessarily be my first choice for electronica, but, without big woofers, that's not surprising. Anyway, if you want a good, clasically flat-earth hi fi that you can scrounge up for less than some nasty Bose system, here you go!
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