Reviewer: Frederic Beudot
Financial interests: click here
Digital Source: Auraliti PK90 USB file player / SOtM sDP-1000EX
Analog Source: VPI Scout 1.1, Lounge Audio LCR MkIII & Copla, Zu-DL103 MkII, Dynavector 10x5 mk5, Ortofon Quintet Black, Nagra VPS [in for review]
Pre-amplifier: SOtM sDP-1000EX, Burson Conductor
Amplifier: FirstWatt F5, Triode Labs EL84TT integrated
Speakers: Ocellia Calliope .21 Twin Signature, Rogers LS 3/5a, Zu Essence
Cables: Zu Varial, Ocellia RCA cables, Absolute Fidelity speaker cables, Zu Libtec
Power Cords: Zu Mother, Ocellia power cables, Absolute Fidelity power cables
Powerline conditioning: Isotek Nova
Sundry accessories: Isolpads under electronics, ASI resonators and sugar cubes.
Room size: 16'x21'x12'
Review component retail: Zu Event MkII speaker cable (from $870 to $2808 as reviewed), Zu Event MkII Phono cable (from $860 to $1000 as reviewed)

Moving is stressful at the best of times. Moving as an audiophile adds an extra level of uncertainty. Years of fine tuning and system optimization may fly right out of the window if the new room won't play nice with your hardware. Moving from a dedicated custom-tweaked room back to a shared living room promised to be quite an adventure when we packed up our family once again to relocate from rural Pennsylvania to the suburbs of Des Moines/Iowa. The one redeeming grace from an audiophile standpoint? The system would move into a much bigger space that's acoustically damped but not 'dead', with 12-foot high ceilings that flow into another open space every bit as large. Dynamic compression certainly was not going to be the serious issue I had to deal with in my old room. The most satisfying aspect of the change though was that the system now sits in a space where everybody can enjoy the music. Who would have thunk that my five year old son was a secret U2 fan just awaiting formal recognition?

Sparing you the blow-by-blow details of my room setup journey, let me just say that it was not exactly a walk in the park. Some mistakes were mine, like when I forgot to tighten one of the screws securing the arm on my turntable. For two weeks I could not figure out why imaging so lacked in focus. Once I realized that the arm base was wobbly, the issue was fixed in less than a minute. Other challenges included dealing with the fact that my beloved Ocellia speakers have completely open bottoms; and the new room is thickly carpeted. Ocellia's design philosophy is to avoid all internal damping to allow acoustic energies to flow freely. Alas, firing down into thick carpet had the exact opposite effect: no bass, no dynamics and a terribly flat dead sound. Again, it took a few weeks to properly diagnose the cause of my misery. Once I understood the reason, it was easily resolved with two solid-wood boards to rest the speakers on. They provide a hard surface for the back wave to bounce off from just as it would on a hardwood floor. Without the boards, the speakers sound broken. With the boards, their qualities shine through but the very large room and increased boundary distances did lighten their bottom end somewhat. It's something I will have to address shortly with subwoofers as now the Ocellias no longer reach much below 60Hz with any kind of authority.

The one compromise I had to make which doubles as reason for this review was to figure out how to set up the electronics mostly out of sight - one small concession to my otherwise very accommodating better half. This required pushing all electronics to the side, either on the built-in shelves or on the audio rack hidden behind a big leather chair. The consequence was that now my Absolute Fidelity speaker cables and the Ocellia silver interconnects I commonly use as phono cables were too short. I was able to use them to set things up initially but a deal is a deal. I knew that my stack of kit had to relocate sooner than later. The dog house was looming.