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I started my listening sessions with the Groove+ using a 47 Laboratory MC Bee phono cartridge. The combination of Groove+ with the MC Bee was really stunning, even eliciting a "Whoa!" from my listening buddy Bill (a blind piano tuner who knows the 'absolute sound' by heart), and with pal Pete while comparing the resultant sound to master tape listening.
While listening to my Analogue Productions test pressing of Curtis Counce's You Get More Bounce with Curtis Counce, it was evident that the Groove+ & MC Bee cartridge combination was clean and uncolored, yet also natural in an honest timbre sort of way. The Groove+ with the MC Bee possessed a slightly forgiving rounded character, making Curtis' bass, Jack's trumpet, Harold's tenor sax, Carl's piano and Frank's drums sound and feel captivatingly life-like. I listened to more albums of course but I'll save you (and me) the tedious blow-by-blow accounts. Suffice it to say it was a uniformly wonderful experience.
The Groove+ was very quiet in operation. Even on my 103dB sensitive Avantgarde Duos, there was zero hum or other noise. There's also lots of gain available. I rarely got past 9:00 o'clock on the Vibe's volume control. It's hard not to be wowed by the tremendous amount of detail recovered by the Groove+. Nothing I've heard comes close to the Groove+ on the detail front. With the MC Bee tracing the tunes, it sounded smooth, with natural tone and a huge billowing sense of space.
Some phono stages bring the performers to your listening room, which I think is a way of saying that their resolution and/or signal-to-noise ratio isn't high enough to capture the soundspace of the recording venue and imprint it over the signature of the soundspace of your listening room. In contrast, the Groove+ transports the listener to the soundspace of the recording venue, which I think may be primarily due to its high signal-to-noise ratio resolving the soundspace of the recording venue and infusing the listening room with it. Both the you are there and they are here approaches are valid and can sound very nice from an enjoyment perspective. Yet recreating the ambience of the recording venue to the level that the Groove+ does is quite rare and borders on the hypnotic. I'm not aware of anything that can match it in that regard.
The Groove+ combined with the MC Bee had great tone with a natural roundness, which for example, flattered the muted trumpet in the opening song "Complete" to make even this notoriously difficult instrument quite listenable and enjoyable. The Groove+ is also extended and articulated in the bass. I heard superb definition of the string tones of Curtis' bass and a realness of timbre that made me do a double take. The high frequencies with the Groove+ & MC Bee combination are a touch rolled off to give a smooth and natural overall presentation. As I mentioned in my MC Bee review, it's an addictive combination of traits that really complements the music being played. The rhythmic capability of the pairing doesn't call attention to itself but still has lots of forward momentum that evokes what I hear at a mid-hall table in Dimitriou's Jazz Alley in Seattle, for example.
Tom told me that he designed the Groove+ to be completely neutral to not alter or color the input signal. Oftentimes when a designer says they've designed a component to be neutral, they are really talking about a presentation that borders on lean. That wasn't the case with the Groove+ and MC Bee but was with my usual Denon DL-103 and the Miyabi Standard & Miyabi 47 moving-coil cartridges I have in for review. Their combined sound was very transparent but also a bit lean and aggressive. The one thing those three cartridges have in common is being low compliance cartridges. I have no idea if their low compliance has anything to do with it but the Groove+ wasn't a happy match with any of those three cartridges. My reference Fi Yph phono stage/Auditorium 23 step-up transformer combination and Manley Steelhead or Art Audio Vinyl Reference I had in for a brief listen could all make beautiful music with those cartridges so I can't really ascribe what I was hearing through the Groove+ to those carts.
Because of the result with the low compliance cartridges, Stephæn and I listened to the Groove+ in his system to see if it would respond better there. Stephæn's rig presently consists of Zu Druid Mk.IV loudspeakers, Art Audio PX-25 amplifier, Herron preamplifier and phono stage, and a vinyl front end consisting of a Nottingham Analogue Studio Space Deck with NAS Space Arm, Dynavector 17D2MKII and a Walker Audio Precision Motor Controller. Stephæn's system is to the luxurious and romantic side of life. I told him his HiFi rig sounds like what it feels like when you're in love. It sounds beautiful. Even though reality doesn't sound quite as seductive and beautiful as his rig, we'd probably all be better off if it did. When inserting the TEAD Groove+ into Stephæn's system, it sounded better than it did in my own (MC Bee combination excepted), drawing praise from both of us. I think that Stephæn's warmish sounding PX-25 and Zu Druids plus the high-compliance Dynavector really helped the Groove+ sing. The Groove+ still sounded just slightly -- but just slightly -- HiFi-ish compared to the lush hot fudge Sunday presentation of the Art Audio Vinyl Reference; but much better than it did in my own system after the departure of the MC Bee cartridge it liked so well. In Stephæn's rig, all the Groove+'s strengths of detail recovery and dynamic prowess were clearly evident.
|Summing up the Groove+|
|So what do we have here? The Groove+ is a $7,000 expensive ultra-high performance phono stage. When matched with the right cartridge -- like the MC Bee --- the Groove+ is absolutely stunning and eclipses any phono stage I've listened to by no small amount: Amazing detail recovery, astonishingly fine rendition of dynamics from the softest to the loudest gradations, huge space and transparency, and astonishing bass response and clarity. It|
|also gets the beat right, sounds natural, has incredible tactile presence and plays music beautifully. I suspect that most of those fortunate enough to be able to afford a Groove+ will feel like they've died and gone to heaven. It's that good.
However, there's no overlooking the fact that the Groove+ is fussy about cartridges. Out of the five cartridges I had available during the review period, I could only get the high level of performance it is capable of with one, the MC Bee cartridge. The other four came across as rather unpleasant matches, being lean and somewhat aggressive sounding. Yet because those same cartridges all sounded mesmerizing with the Art Audio Vinyl Reference (or my Fi Yph & Aud 23 combo) and created a beautiful musical experienc, I'm not at all inclined to blame the cartridges. The Groove+ may very well be the highest performance phono stage ever offered for sale to HiFi hobbyists when matched with the right cartridge, yet it could use a touch more warmth and flesh & blood naturalness to make it compatible with a wider variety of cartridges. The addition of adjustable cartridge loading and a mute switch would also make it more reviewer and user friendly. I've had one owner tell me that he preferred its single-minded design so he didn't have to play around trying to fine-tune things. Just get an accommodating cartridge, forget about the electronics and enjoy the music. I recommend the Groove+ highly as long as you keep in mind that you must carefully match it to an appropriate cartridge. If you do that, then you're in for quite a treat with what is one of the highest performing phono stages (if not the highest) ever designed.
The TEAD full system effect and long term report
I thought it'd be helpful to provide my own and other's experiences using the full combination of TEAD gear in my system and describe my long-term impressions. As I mentioned at the start of this review, my enthusiasm for the Tom Evans Audio Design gear is considerable. I ended up purchasing the review samples after reviewing them. The transformation wrought in my system with the addition of the 25wpc Linear A stereo amplifier, the Vibe Lithos 7 preamplifier with optional Pulse power supply and the Groove+ phono stage was nothing short of amazing. It really does seem that in the full system context, the TEAD gear's performance as a whole is greater than you would expect from the sum of its parts. The combined performance is staggering!
Before I go on, let me briefly recap the results of the reviews of the Linear A amplifier and Vibe + Pulse preamplifier in case you haven't read those yet. The Linear A rocks, jazzes and does classical music with equal prowess. No one-trick pony here. That's a plus for the true music lover who listens to a variety of music. The Linear A is very detailed and articulate amplifier and I got a real sense that I was hearing everything there was to hear on a recording without it ever sounding etched or analytical. That makes the feat even more impressive. The A's resolution and finesse with microdynamics along with its resolution give a very real sense of texture and feel to the music. Articulation at lower frequencies is phenomenal. I've never heard any other amplifier in my listening room come close. The Linear A also gives an enormous sense of recorded space that infuses the listening room with the air of the recording venue. There is a strong display of SET-like magic with well-defined and illuminated images. The soundstage offers a good separation of images left to right and back to front. Images are life size and have a lot of presence. It's easy to hear all the different instruments contribute to the musical whole and it's easy to pick out a particular instrument and follow it through the mix.
The way the A handles percussion is phenomenal. The level of transparency and detail recovery coupled with the natural tonality of the Linear A make for a stunning and captivating listening experience. The Linear A is a remarkable achievement in amplifier design. It sounds better and plays music better than any SET amplifier in my experience - by a substantial margin. Coming from an SET nut like me, I hope you realize what high praise that is. Tom's Linear A is extraordinary with its composite 10 design of eight single-ended EL84s powered by op-amp drivers. EL84s are cheap and easy to come by, quite unlike some of the exotic direct-heated triodes. And unlike many single-tube triode amps, the Linear A is powerful enough to drive medium-efficient real-world loudspeakers. The Linear A is simply the finest amplifier I have encountered in all my years in audio - by a large margin.
|In the review of the Vibe Lithos 7 preamplifier and its optional Pulse power supply, I described it as an impressive sounding preamplifier: Extended at the frequency extremes, extremely detailed all through its range, smooth and tonally natural, with great macro- and microdynamics and able to reveal everything in its rhythmic complexity. The way the Vibe-Pulse portrays the tactile presence of the music is|
|somewhat revolutionary. You not only hear what the musicians are doing with their instruments but you can also "feel it" like you do when you are playing an instrument yourself. Added to the Vibe-Pulse's superior resolution, detail, dynamics and natural tonality is its ability to give you the feel for the tactile sense of touch you get while playing an instrument. You get a feel for what is being done in the music in a way that in my experience is unprecedented in audio electronics. The Vibe-Pulse combination is neutral in character and resolving while at the same time being expressively musical. It's what you'd expect from the best vacuum tube preamplifier. Except that there are no tubes inside it. It sounds better than any valve preamplifier I've ever heard. By a lot.
Reports from the field
During the review process, I've received feedback from readers who've become TEAD owners after reading my reviews on the Linear A, Vibe,and Pulse. I thought I'd share some of their ongoing impressions and some new things I've learned from them as well, to help fill out the big picture.
First, let me introduce Clinton, who purchased a Linear A amplifier to replace his Art Audio Diavolo amp (heavily modded, with WE 300Bs). Clinton was pretty disappointed with his Linear A at first as it didn't blend well with the system he'd built around his Diavolo. When I write a review, I describe things in the same way as I would to my best friends. Nothing saddens me more as an audio reviewer than to find out that a reader (who I consider to be best friends at a distance) is not having the same good experience with a product that I did. But Clinton's story had a happy ending. He persevered with the Linear A, did a little tube rolling and other tweaking and then told me this: "I love it now! Its heaps and bounds over others with the noise floor and dynamics, but the stock Ei valves made it sound glassy and lack body and warmth. As impressive as it was, it was mechanical sounding. The Harma Cryo valves put back the body into the music. I'm one happy puppy!" So be warned: as marvelous as the TEAD gear is, it is possible to find an unhappy match of associated equipment just as it is with any other state of the art gear. I'm just really happy Clinton was able to get the sound he wanted with something as easy as a tube swap.
My experience with the stock Ei tubes was different. They sounded great in my system. There's that system synergy thing rearing its head. In my rig, the Linear A sounded warmer and more full-bodied than either the Yamamoto A-08 45 or Fi 2A3 monos. Clinton has been keeping me informed about his valve rolling experiments and turned me on to Watford Valves in the UK who specialize in tubes for guitarists and HiFi nuts. Watford cryogenically treats a select hand-picked line of carefully measured and tested new and NOS valves they call the Harma Cryo line (and they'll seem bargain priced to those used to the cost of fancy direct-hreated triodes). Watford did a nice comparison of different EL84 valves (the October 2005 shoot out) and posted it on their website.
Clinton found that the cryogenically treated EL84L/7189A Harma valves from Watford made a dramatic difference for the better in his amp. So I ordered a set for myself as well. Watford brutally burst tests the valves under extreme conditions for "high gain and maximum reliability" and then performs cryogenic immersion. When I asked Watford about the source for the EL84L/7189A Harma cryo valves, they were somewhat tight-lipped. They only divulged that "the EL84L is an old Russian NOS special application military valve which has a higher plate dissipation of 14 watts (all other EL84s have 12 watts). This tube is very clean so is great for audio and also will outlast other EL84s in Class A applications." Watford also says that "the valve has a rugged construction and thick glass which reduces microphonics and rattle in all guitar combos (should help in audio too don't you think?). The valve has a coated anode which makes it stable and able to withstand high voltages. The valve produces the maximum clean headroom out of any current EL84, providing a rich warm overdrive sound when distorted."
I ordered up a set of the Harma cryo'd EL84Ls to see what Clinton was talking about. Sure enough, Clinton was right on. They are great tubes. Not all EL84 tubes are created equal though. When I substituted a set of Sovteks for the stock Ei valves, it produced sour faces all the way around with my listening buddies. The cryo'd Harmas didn't sound as impressive at first blush as the Ei valves did, being a little less detailed and dynamically nuanced and a little less dramatic. They are more evenly balanced in the bass yet have less distinct pitch definition. The notes don't decay quite as long and there's a little less sense of space. There's also less bass impact but the bass is still tight and tuneful. Yet there is something charming and overtly musical about them and how they sound & play music. This allowed me to sink into the music to a greater extent than with the Ei valves. The Harma E84L/7189A Cryo valves are smooth and well balanced. With them, recordings take on a more natural and relaxed character. Overall they are smoother, softer, more laid-back than the Ei valves and more musical. Well worth the money in my opinion
I also got a nice note from Cliff about his Linear A: "I just wanted to follow up with a thank you for your Tom Evans reviews. I traded my old amp for a Linear A and Vibe and all I can say is "Wow!" It is every bit as good as you said, and then some. Even without the Pulse (I'll be getting that later), this gear has elevated my system to a level of musical realism, involvement and enjoyment that I had begun to believe was unattainable, at least on my audio budget. Having been a Duo owner for over 4 years, I recently found myself on the verge of selling them, so underwhelming with various combinations of gear had my experiences been. Now, as they say, they would have to be pried from my cold dead hands. Every Avantgarde owner who is less than thrilled with his current system really ought to hear the Evans gear. I feel it would probably change his audio world like it did mine. As far as this audio-nut is concerned, your reviews have been a public service and I thank you."
I love to get notes like Cliff's. He's exactly right about the TEAD gear synergy with Avantgardes. I too had been a bit frustrated with my Duos and the TEAD gear absolutely transformed them. If you haven't heard your Avantgardes with TEAD gear yet, you have no idea what they are capable of. That's a fact. One reader told me that he thought Tom Evans may not even know how good his gear really is until he hears it on Avantgardes. The combination's synergy is that impressive.
As I mentioned earlier in my Vibe-Pulse review, reader Paul summed up the Vibe-Pulse experience nicely in a e-mail to me after getting a Vibe and Pulse of his own: "I gotta rave at someone this morning and I suspect you'll understand best. I I took delivery of a used Vibe/Pulse last night. It warmed up for an hour and then proceeded to knock my little cotton socks off. Here's the interesting part. It's driving my super-trick Audion Silver Night MkII PX25 integrated which has a stepped attenuator made of Vishay Dales. I compared running the DAC straight into the amp vs. running it through the Vibe. There was simply no comparison. The Vibe path was better in every regard: transparency, resolution, imaging, dynamics and extension. And the image palpability - wow! But especially -- most especially -- amazing was the musicality. I've never heard this kind of musical intensity from my system. This is just flat-out incredible. I'm now convinced that ordering a Linear A, even unheard, was the right move. To echo Stephæn Harrell: "This is seriously good shit.""
After Paul lived with his Vibe-Pulse for a while, he succumbed to the desire for a Linear A after which I got another e-mail: "Happy New Year, Jeff. I thought I'd drop you a line about the TEAD Vibe/Pulse/Linear A combo that's playing in my room. And the line is, "Why the hell didn't someone tell me about this stuff sooner?" Your review and your e-mail comments were right on the money and I'm only now beginning to appreciate how accurate your assessment really was. I am shocked, amazed, stunned, in total awe, gobsmacked, blown away - any word or phrase like that you can think of, I'll gladly use. I have never heard sound like this before. I've never had so much music or so many musicians and so many venues in my listening room. The Linear A has about 50 hours on it and is starting to feel settled in so last night I pulled it and dropped in my previous pride and joy Audion PX-25. In comparison to the Linear A. it sounded veiled, airless, sloooow, over-warm, dynamically limp and just plain woolly. This from an amp that cost me $18,000 and had trumped every amp that had gone before it. It lasted in the system for an hour - long enough to be sure there wasn't some horrendous warm-up curve I had forgotten about. It was such a relief to pull it out. The TEAD gear just killed it. Tom's stuff is truly in another league altogether.
"The Linear A has gotten smoother, richer and more coherent as it burned in. A slight prominence in the upper mids is completely gone and there isn't a trace of unevenness anywhere. What's most remarkable is that the quality of the sound seems identical across the entire frequency range - the same dynamics, transparency, resolution, eloquence and lucidity from bottom to top (within the limits of the speaker system, of course). I've never heard that before. There's always been a change in character somewhere in the spectrum. Oh, and the microdynamics and PRaT are just astounding. In addition to all that, the Vibe has proven itself the master of all the line stages I have on hand. This even includes a Bent Audio Noh TVC that made the system sound broken in comparison when driving the Linear A. Even the PX-25 sounds better with the Vibe driving its built-in stepped attenuator,compared to the direct feed from the DAC - just not enough better, unfortunately. I suspect I'll be making a gibbering fool of myself over this gear. Everyone I've had over to listen has gone away shaking their heads, like the fellow two nights ago who kept muttering, "This is totally outrageous!""
Paul has posted a really nice review of the Linear A out on the Audio Asylum and you ought to give it a read. I know just how Paul feels. I reported my results with the TEAD gear with some trepidation as everyone does when encountering equipment that changes the level of the game to such a degree. The truth is that when something this good comes along, it impacts the whole industry. It causes everybody to reach down deep inside and go back to the drawing board and raise their game to a new level. It's like what happened in MotoGP when Valentino Rossi came on the scene or what is happening now in Motocross and Supercross with James Stewart. When someone so much obviously faster appears, it causes everyone to reach down deep and up the level of their racing, making the whole sport better for everyone. Same for audio.
Early on in my review of the TEAD gear, Terry Cain of Cain & Cain loudspeakers visited Ed at his home and gave his system an extended listen. The always reticent Terry later told me that Ed's system was the best he's ever heard. That's really saying something given how good Terry's own system is. As I thought about Terry's comments, I felt it would be a good idea to interview Ed and get him to tell us a little more about his HiFi rig in hopes that I (we) might learn a trick or two about getting our own systems dialed in.
Jeff: Ed, in the review of the Linear A amplifier I told 6moons readers about your distinguished background as a musician. Tell me, what kind of music does a distinguished musician listen to for fun and pleasure?
Ed Sheftel: I have an eclectic taste in music. Being a studio musician, you are expected to perform any music ever written or created idiomatic to its style. I listen to a lot of Jazz prior to around 1975: Miles, Dizzy, Clifford Brown, Charlie Parker, Prez, Coleman Hawkins, J. J. Johnson, Bud Powell, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck and I could go on and on. There were/are only two current artists that I will go to see in a live performance. Shirley Horn, who just recently died, was a pure genius. Shirley was a great singer and a great pianist. Her use of silence was spellbinding. Tom Harrell is a brilliant, creative trumpet player. He graduated from Stanford before it was discovered that he was schizophrenic. Before he starts to play, he is into his medical situation. Once he counts off the first or second tune and begins to play, he creates pure amazement within the mind of the listener. As a Jazz improviser myself, I am amazed by his lack of fear. He goes for every idea that enters his head regardless of whether he feels that his technical chops are equal to the idea or not. As a result, his solos are sometimes less than perfect but I am impressed by his total and absolute freedom of creation.
"I listen to all styles and periods of classical music. The great conductors and orchestras of the past are what I prefer. I listen to all other styles of music too, like rock, country and anything really except most rap and all heavy metal. All ethnic music is of great interest to me. There is a CD by Ivo Papasov and his Bulgarian Wedding Band (Orpheus Ascending HNCD 1346) that is fascinating. The meters are indistinguishable and they are played at great speed. They change meters almost every bar and the meters are extremely unusual and difficult. The music is played as if it were water running off of their backs. As an aside, for the past thirty some years I have had three well-known Classical ensembles based in Los Angeles. The first is Pentabrass, which is a brass quintet where we focus in our performances on the fact that brass instruments are founded on the principles of science andmMathematics. Then there's Trumpetissimo which is a trumpet duo where we do performances that depict the development of the brass instrument from its earliest origins like the ram's horn and the conch shell all the way up to the modern brass trumpet. The third is the L.A. Renaissance Band where we perform on original Renaissance instruments and dress in totally original clothing of the period - even the buttons are authentic! The group presents a multimedia presentation of the music, inventions, and famous paintings of the Renaissance period and how this era still affects our lives today. These three groups work in schools, libraries, outdoor venues and concert halls. This is my way of giving back to every age of person the education and musical ability that I was blessed enough to obtain.
Jeff: How does being an accomplished musician affect your goals in setting priorities for your HiFi system? For example, what's most important to you: tone, expressiveness, recreating the live experience etc.?
Ed Sheftel: My concept of musical recreation is based on the following premise: It is my goal to place myself in the environment of where the particular recording was created. I want to not only hear the reality as it was created but I also want to experience the tactile sense of the music. Music is not just audible, you can also feel it. I also need the emotional feel of the music.
Jeff: Terry Cain told me after hearing your system he thought it was the best sounding system he's ever heard. That's big praise indeed. Tell our readers what components you have in your system, starting with the loudspeakers and ending with the sources. Also tell us about any accessories you use like equipment racks or any power treatment devices. Do you have any general advice for readers about building a great sounding system?
Ed Sheftel: The speakers Terry heard and which I have used for many years are the Von Schweikert 4.5s. I have no idea what the new Von Schweikerts sound like compared to mine. When I went to the last CES show earlier this year, I spent a day walking the show with my friend Barry Willis, who was a longtime A/V writer for Stereophile and is currently one of the writers for The Absolute Sound. Barry introduced me to Alan Yun who is the designer and president of Silverline Audio Technology. After listening for about two minutes, Barry turned to me and said "your Tom Evans electronics and these Silverline speakers would be a match made in heaven." So I'm currently using Alan's top-of-the-line Grande La Folias. They are marvelous. You ought to check out his small $1,200/pr Preludes if you get a chance. They are the Sound Dynamic 300ti of the 21st century [our own Paul Candy is on it already - Ed.]. All of the electronics in my system are obviously made by Tom Evans: Vibe preamplifier with Pulse power supply, the Groove+ phonostage and the Linear B monoblocks. To be quite honest, the high level of musical reproduction that I have created in my system was germinated by the insertion of the Tom Evans electronics.
My CD player is a JVC 1050 extremely upgraded to a very high level. I use an ADE-24 Margenta analog/digital Enhancer. My turntable is an original Well Tempered that I got directly from the genius designer Bill Firebaugh at its inception. It has been upgraded over the years. I use a Walker Audio Precision Motor Controller on my WTT. It was a major upgrade. Everything that Lloyd Walker produces always matches what he verbally states it will do. I will be receiving, within the next month, a Sound Engineering turntable made by Bob Benn www.SoundengineeringLLP,com . This is a very special and well thought-out table. I will also be adding a Basis Vector arm with a Dynavector 1S cartridge. The Sound Engineering table will also contain a recently invented motor controller designed by Tom Evans. It can also be purchased through Bob Benn as a separate item. My FM tuner is a recently purchased MR78 McIntosh upgraded by the original inventor of the unit at Audio Classics. I have an outdoor rotating FM antenna. Listening to FM is one of my favorite things. On my system, you believe that the "sound source" is either a CD or an LP. My prize audio possession is a Revox A700 tape recorder. All of this equipment goes through my Silverline speakers. I can also run all this equipment (except for the TE Linear B amps) go through my Von Schweikert 4.5s. In that context, the TEAD amps are replaced by two mono BEL 1001 amps which are also excellent - great electronics. I have a Promethean power conditioner, PS Audio outlet and power strip, Z Stabilizer and IDOS. All cables are Kimber Kable: top of the line Select interconnects, top of the line speaker cable and the unbelievable Palladium PK 10 power cords.
Jeff: Getting a great-sounding system is more than just putting equipment in a room. Can you tell us about your room and what you've done to optimize your system to the room (speaker placement, room treatment, etc.)?
Ed Sheftel: My room is a real world environment. It is my rectangular living room of 20 feet by 12 feet. I have many Shun Mook room treatments positioned as they suggest and a Shakti Hallograph. That's it! I have the speakers positioned at a slight angle toward listening position.
Jeff: What sorts of equipment tweaks do you use to get the most out of your equipment? What are you listening for when you are tweaking your system?
Ed Sheftel: I use Shakti Stones everywhere: on top of power supplies, all the equipment, etc. All of my cables and power cords are off of the floor by at least 4 inches with a preferred 8 inches. I use a lot of porcelain cable elevators. When I feel particularly neurotic, I separate all the interconnects and power cords with foam. I use Walker Audio Valid Points and Discs and his High Definition Links on the speaker terminals. This gives more transparency and more audible and tactile realism. I use a Sound Engineering Outsider on my turntable platter to flatten the record's edge during playing.
Jeff: You mentioned you discovered a great listening chair - can you tell me about that?
Ed Sheftel: Over the years, I realized that I've been listening to my system on a very stiff, uncomfortable chair. I made it work because I was focused on evaluation and listening. Recently I discovered Klein Design, Inc., located at 99 Sadler Street in Gloucester, MA. 01930. www.kleindesign.com . Their Ultra Recliner allows you to position your body and legs anyway you wish to evaluate or just enjoy music. This is a must. It is easily assembled and moved into listening position.
Jeff: What's important to you in a HiFi system?
Ed Sheftel: Everything, I'm a perfectionist. A 2% improvement is significant to me.
Jeff: Ed, what are your system's strengths and weaknesses?
Ed Sheftel: The strengths are the ability to place the listener in the environment of where the recording was created. It has transparency, an incredible soundstage and unbelievable tactile presence. With Tom's equipment, the following always exists. It has what I call "the wow factor." Every time I turn the TEAD equipment on, I say "Wow!" I do that everyday and I'm going on three years now. With other equipment, the "wow factor" leaves after a week or two or at the most a month. As for weaknesses, I suppose I'm like everyone else. I'd like more of everything in my system. I know that it can't be achieved but I'd like my musical reproduction to have perfectly live-sounding performance.
Jeff: Is there anything you could do to your system that would take it to the next level in performance?
Ed Sheftel: I think in the analog realm is where I could improve it the most. That's why I've got an order in for the new Sound Engineering turntable.
Jeff: Is there anything in particular that you would like to share with our readers before we close?
Ed Sheftel: In my first year at Yale University, I took a Forms course from Professor Mel Powell, who is one of the two original Jazz pianists with Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson, and then later Mel Powell. He studied at Yale under Paul Hindemith as did many great composers. Mel became a famous classical composer and then a Professor at Yale University. He taught me to never go into any situation with a preconceived opinion or definition of what's right. Always go into the situation with an ad hoc approach. I recommend that you do the same in audio. Go in with no preconceived conception as to what's right. Be ad hoc! This will open up areas of improvement in your audio system that you never thought could exist.
I hope you have enjoyed this three-part journey through the Tom Evans electronics. Even if you aren't a potential buyer, I urge you to give them a listen, if for no other reason than to hear what is possible with HiFi these days. I certainly have enjoyed my time with these electronics and they now serve as my new reference for ultra-level performance. Did I mention that I am awarding Tom's group of components a Blue Moon award for their incredible level of synergistic performance? I am and I can't think of anything that deserves it more in the ultimate performance category.
|Tom Evans replies:
Thank you on behalf of all of us here at Tom Evans Audio Design for your excellent in-depth reviews of our products. I for one know how hard you have worked to get the details right and I appreciate it. It is also great to see some customer feedback. Over the years, I have had a few phone calls from musicians who have listened to our products and they tell me that our products have that special something no one else has. I've also often thought how lucky we are to have a world-class musician like Ed Sheftel as our U.S. distributor now. The future looks bright and I have some exciting new products on the way. As I mentioned on the telephone, I will keep you informed about new developments as they occur.