Today's feature is inspired directly by Marc Mickelson's excellent SoundStage! Editorial for October. In it, the veteran reviewer and editor muses over reviewer systems as tool boxes and what he'd listen to were he not a professional reviewer. He goes on to recommend a system assembled from components he's heard and which, while not inexpensive, are deliberately selected for price, ergonomics and performance that regular music lovers and not merely completely committed audiophools would embrace and enjoy.

What a great idea. Audio magazines are often asked to review and recommend complete systems. For numerous reasons, that's a logistic nightmare of the first order. But Marc just
aptly demonstrated how it could be done in a less formal while equally serious fashion that takes into account first-hand experience (or even ownership past or present) by simply beginning with the question "what would I own if I didn't do this for a living?" and then culls from the kind of insight that only comes from doing it professionally and for a long time.

As with everything else on the moons, participation of our writers in a new feature is completely voluntary. I won't promise that you'll see future installments of Royal Flush by each and every one of our writers. But I dare imagine that the sheer prospect of playing (good) audio dealer for a few moments might inspire more than a few of them to contribute their own complete system recommendations. For today, I'll pop the cork on this cherry. Saludos! Just one disclaimer - Royal Flush Systems will, by necessity, reflect the cost and sophistication level of whatever a particular writer is most in touch with. The less-than-flush portion of the header does not specifically suggest a particular budget. Instead, consider the less-than-flush part at least as much relative to size and aesthetic as financial considerations. Still, the intent is firmly on value and sanity rather than excess and exclusivity.

Srajan's system
I'd start with the speakers which, in concert with your room size and desired playback levels, will determine the matching amplifier. There's only one choice for speakers: The $2,590/pr Gallo Acoustics Reference 3. Chris Martens' current review in The Absolute Sound confirms not only our own review findings and high regard for this design but, as the front cover clearly shows, even agrees on our breakthrough designation with such charged terms as radical, revolutionary, or, to quote directly, "Performance this good has never been so affordable, which is why one audio industry veteran who heard the speakers in my home commented (Mr. Gallo, would you kindly plug your ears for a few moments?) that the Reference3 was significantly underpriced for the level of excellence it offered. I couldn't agree more..."

I couldn't agree more - with either Mr. Martens or his industry acquaintance. And how often do our kind agree on anything? Well, include Marty DeWulf of Bound for Sound. Depending
on your room, this speaker will be full-range or begin to roll off at about 40Hz. While there is no clear rule-of-thumb, I would say that in rooms of 12' x 18', the necessity for the optional $900 Gallo Reference 3 SA becomes doubtful while owners of rooms 16' x 24' should consider this 240wpc amp/xover/EQ box to co-drive the woofers via their 2nd voice coil inputs.

For amplifiers, I'd stay with integrated designs for reasons of box count, expense and inbuilt optimization between the pre- and power-amp stages. Here three designs stand out as being particularly brilliant: The remote-controlled $2,990 Bel Canto Design eVo2i at 120wpc; the $1,495 Unison Research Unico at 80wpc; and the non-remote $1,995 Audio Zone Amp-1 at 40wpc. Because of the Gallos' minimum-crossover design, all of these amps have ample power but larger rooms/higher volumes might dictate higher power hence these three specific recommendations.

All of these amps have garnered Blue Moon Awards as stand-out performers in their respective price categories. The speakers even inaugurated the Lunar Eclipse Award because they're patently too good for their price category. And while highly touted components don't automatically make good systems in combination, I have tried all of these setups to confidently recommend them.

This leaves us with a source component. Considering that I'm one of those fossils who ain't happy unless there's at least one tube in the system, somewhere, I present you with the remote-controlled tube-powered $900 Eastern Electric MiniMax. And because thus far, I've been as easy on your check book as any bone-headed reviewer could be, I'll attempt to talk you into the $460 audio-technica ATH-W1000 headphones which click like magic with the headphone jack of the MiniMax. To finish off, we'll add the $299/0.5m Analysis Plus Solo Crystal ICs and one single-wire run of $670/6ft Oval 8. If you add the Gallo bass amp, you'll want a run of 10-gauge Radio Shack copper with the Audio Zone and Unison Research amps for the "sub in" connection or a second interconnect for the Bel Canto (the Reference 3 SA accepts both high- and low-level inputs).

If you want to experiment with power cords, I'd recommend something from the Audience stable while for resonance control, the $99/3 MiniClouds by Gingko Audio are the no-brainer addition.

How much of your hard-earned greenbacks did I just spend? Let's see - $6,000 in this rig's most affordable iteration, $8,809 in its spendiest. This prior to after-market cords and resonance control. Would I live with this system? Any day of the week! And that's no bull. I own the Gallos, the MiniMax, the Analysis Plus wires, the headphones and have just sent my Unico to Paul Candy in whose household it will see more use now that I've downscaled to one main system (which weighed in around $85,000 last time I counted - ayee). If I weren't a reviewer who considers that the perfect excuse to live larger and posher in the listening room than I otherwise would or could afford, I'd happily live with this 'budget' system in any of its configurations to step off that tired old merry-go-round of anxiety and upgraditis for good. You might, too.