Tubes Galore!

Many systems easily gives the "they(the performers) are here, in the room" presentation, but just a few days ago, I experienced a system that represents that "you are there!"perspective. This is the story of such a system.

Sting(the system owner, not the English man in New York!), goes around the world as part of his job demands. He is an ardent fan of live concerts, not the stadium filling type mind you, but rather the intimate Jazz bar, or acoustic live type of performance. The type of concert that Hardrock Cafe best known for. These performing environment forms his point of audio reproduction reference. Sting's music diet consist of mostly live recordings of such performances and live studio recordings, of acoustic folk, pop/rock and blues musical genre mostly.

Von Schweikert VR1 Reference, note the tuning beaks.

Listening to this system, one gets the feeling of being transported all the way to the event!, being part of the audience, smoke, beer and all the sensation of "being there!". The system re creates the "stage" literally to a very high degree convincingly. The air is not only between instruments, but also between the performers! As a certain hifi guru used to quote, "breathing the same air as the musicians" now makes so much sense to me. The sound stage is virtually 3D in presentation with almost life sized scale, when playing all these recorded live performances. One of my favorite live performances ever recorded is Eva Cassidy's Live at the Blues Alley, it's like I was there. With this type of presentation, all the usual audiophile sound description almost becomes meaningless. But this is an hifi blog, one with high end aspirations if I might add. So we'll still dissect the sound just a bit.

Tonality is warm, highs airy and smooth, but full of energy so important to the aspect of recreating the "live performances" so convincingly. The mids have body and density, not only have mouth, but chest and waist portrayed. The bass, though does not extend particularly low, does has enough heft, to still make bass guitars and kick drums, well, kick ass!

This is a system to immerse yourself in to the live event re created!

Naim CD5 & Flatcap.

So what's the equipment list, you ask? Here goes, starting with a Naim CD5 supported by a Flatcap to power the analogue section of the player. A Naim DIN to RCA cable is used to send the signal to a DIY tube pre amp.

DIY tube buffer design pre amp.

This pre amp is an interesting one, because it is a tube buffer by design, incorporating and step attenuator and selector switch. The buffer design nature means no gain and no feedback. In theory at least, it should sound as transparent as a passive pre, minus all the drawbacks usually associated with the passive unit. Built quality and parts are impressive, with a pair of Sylvania 6922 forming the heart of the pre amp, flanked by parts like 1% metal films resistors and 3% Mundorf Silver/Oil caps, to improve L/R channel matching tolerance. Eat your heart out! Musical Fidelity X-10D, which ever version!

Inside pre amp, simplicity!

From the tube buffer pre amp, which solves the impedance matching issues between source and power amp, connected by Mogami Studio interconnects which is perhaps, the STAR of the system, a pair of VTL MB-250 Signature tube mono blocks. These are some of the sweetest sounding muscular amps around, having played with a pair before in my own system, I know their 250 quality watts very well.

VTL MB-250 Signature.

The amplified signals are sent to a pair of Von Schweikert VR1 Reference mini monitors, which are mounted on top of half filled, four pillar stand. Speaker cable is vdH The Wind.

Von Schweikert VR1 Reference, worth another look?

The music system's power is supplied via dedicated 45 amps power line especially installed for the job. Promitheus Balance Power Supply is used to condition before sending the juices to the CD player only. All oher equipments draw power direct from wall via, Wire World Tundra distributor. Various Harmonic Tech A/C series power cords are used to connect from distributor to all the various equipments.

Dedicated 45 amps power line for audio.

Promitheus Audio Balanced Power for Naim CD5 only.

Cable elavators, made drom left over legs from "shoe rack" deflector panels.

Various tuning methods are employed, from equipment isolation spikes to what seemed like tuning beaks, placed on the two front corners of the speakers. These are in fact, resonators in disguised. Sting would not tell me the source of the resonators, so I can't share that with our readers.

Speaker tuning beak?

No, but a resonator!

Room tune/treatment is taken care, by a variety of, guess what, shoe racks! I did not know about them prior to my visit, but Sting says he got inspired after reading about it from this blog! He used a total of 22 sets shoe racks, deployed in the front and side walls, plus ceiling corners, all double or quad layered. The back wall of the room, is lined with drapes. CD racks also lined the sidewalls for further deflection qualities.

Shoe rack ceiling corner treatment.

2 and 4 layers shoe rack deflector sandwich.

Drapes and ceiling corner treatment for back wall.

Did I mentioned that Sting is also an avid photographer(the really nice looking ones are taken by him) and accomplished bass guitar player too?

It's alive....!

Well done, Sting!


Anonymous said...

Wah, can breathe the air one ah? Sure or not?........

maggielurva 愛美姬 said...

did sting play his own song "if you love somebody, set it free" or "every breath you take"?

welcome sting to this humble blog and bravo to panzer for a thorough review!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, live performance with this type of bookshelve setup? I have my reservations.
But congratulations for being featured here.

built62 said...

mini monitors with no subwoofer for a bass guitarist? wow!!!

Panzer said...

Anonymous 12.56am,

I was rather sure of it! Ha!Ha!

Anonymous 12.30pm,

This is the second time I have experienced bookshelves with un believably big sounds! The 1st time was in KLIAV 2005, in the LS3/5A room. It was demoed in one of the larger rooms in the show basement, and the big,big sound coming from the LS3/5A was unbelievable. It was magical!

Now the Von Schweikert VR1 supprised me again, for such a small speaker, it sounded really big and re-create the concert sound bigger than the room it self.


Some times, less is indeed more! I found the bass of the system to be adequate considering the speaker size, it did not go very low in terms of frequency, but I was so caught up by the performance, it didn't really matter!

Sting said...

built62 said...

mini monitors with no subwoofer for a bass guitarist? wow!!!

Bro, if you wanna talk about it ensure you got substance la. Does it really matters for a subwoofer? or is it choice of speakers depends on your listening area size?. You listen to bass line or bass boom?. You don't need 20hz freq to really hear the bass and hardly it went to that low. Are you familiar with the speakers?. These speakers does give me satisfaction on low notes. Don't be fooled by the size. it got what it takes to impress me (or even Panzer) and if you have floorstander but doesn't gives quality bass is consider style without substance. Lots of great review about this speakers:

Review Summary from soundstage
Sound: "The top end sounds quite vivid. Couple that with the weighty bottom end and a tinge of warmth through the mids, and it all makes for a surprisingly open and full-bodied presentation." "Also sound big…as in spacious and room-filling"; "champs with vocal presentations, indicating…that the midrange is bang-on."
Features: "A 1" silk-dome tweeter and a 6-1/2" woofer -- pretty standard for speakers of this genre" -- but "both drivers are said to have VSA’s Low Distortion Motor system"; "Pressure Release cabinet" that "allows the woofer to see a much larger cabinet and therefore produce deeper bass."
Use "Different power requirements depending on your use of tubes or solid state" -- 50 to 100 solid-state watts, 10 to 100 tube watts; "magnetically shielded, so you can use the VR-1s close to your TV."
Value "A real high-value design because it competes head-on with speakers that cost much more."

Sting said...

last note...

bass should move your heart & soul not your ass. You've got to listen more...

built62 said...

bro, since when commenting on something subjective need substance? if those VR1s are good enuf for you, then they are.

perhaps i dun read much but i yet to read a "bad" review on a reference series of any brand on popular magazines. care to forward a one?

sub, imo, is not for moving asses but will definitely kick some if it is properly matched and tuned.

"bass boom? 20hz to hear bass?"
i am sorry, i dun get you. hope you can explain further. and i wasn't not talking about the size of the speakers/drivers either.

last note:
fyi, bass from speakers dun move nothing but air. it's MUSIC that moves hearts and souls!

in anycase, you were very rude with your statement using "your".
hope you can write better next time.

"listen more" - to what? perhaps you would be kind enuf to enlighten me.

i agree that sometimes "less" is in fact more; but "none", i am not so sure la sifu. again, if it works for you; hey it works!

btw, i believe the big sounding produced by those LS3/5As were complimented by subwoofers.

Sting said...


At the first place your statement a bit sarcastic, you didn't notice that?. But I do feels that..

Substance means in my statement, you know what you're talking

..."mini monitors with no subwoofer for a bass guitarist? wow!!!"

You seem to disagree sarcastic manner, to me at least.

If you can't find any bad review on any reference series, why must argue then. We're talking about one specific occasion/review which you are not there. So, who will be the best judge...can you? In away you questioning Panzer credibility as a reviewer.

Yes,sub if matched properly will gives good bass. But I don't need that..period. If I want more, I'll get highend floorstander instead.

bass at "20hz" (exaggerated). what I meant was we don't need such low freq or big speakers to enjoy the bass. Yes, the lower the better it works, but who cares as long you like it.

I'm rude? think so?. do I need to explain why and what about your statement then. You forget I guess, 1 finger pointing and three others pointing back at you...

In theory, yes bass is just a moving of air but bass to me is a bass line act like a back bone in music. Don't be technical, it's boring. What sounds right to you, enjoy! and maybe not for me but who am I to argue.

"Listen more"...straight forward, listen more music and don't be judgmental on that "specific" review.

ON LS3/5A, yes indeed subwoofer has been used during the demo. It's was treated like "secret weapon" on that show.

Benefit of adult, I rest my case.

Sting said...

should read as:

You seem to disagree in sarcastic manner, to me at least. (4th paragraph)

Sting said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The system owner do not need to defend how his system sounds or worry how others perceives it.

Everyone will have something to say about it even without hearing it. Those who have heard it may not tell the truth.

In any case, just enjoy what you have.

I can only say that you got everything covered from power conditioning to footers to room treatment and good equipment.

Next is the rack i guess.

Sting said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sting said...

Anonymous above,

I'm not defending my system, not about that. I can't force everyone to accept my sounding, it's very subjective. Some may like Bong, Bong, Ching, Ching kind of sound, be's ok as long they like it. But, those who are not listen and doesn't have any idea at all are at fault when they make kind of provocative remarks. Few peoples commented and I'm ok with all those, but not in sarcastic way, it's different though.

If the reviewer not telling the truth then Panzer's credibility as a desireable audio reviewer is at stake which in my opinion he's been honest enough and I would rather not to be featured here. At anytime they may remove, I'm ok.

Thanks for your compliments, yup the rack is next change...


built62 said...

i dun believe you have fully understood both my postings.

"treated like secret weapon on the show"...
my gwad, you are so so very lucky that he let you know his secret.

Sting said...

..and now you wanna magnify that issue?...huh, what the..... That was quoted from my friend LS3/5A guy as the sub was not visible according to him.

From your posting, I don't aspect you would understand either...definitely not.

Panzer said...

Built62, Sting,

This has gone far enough!

Irregardless, please stop the "UNdesirable thoughts" now.

It's O.K., we don't have to agree with each other at all. But do not degenerate this area in to a Jerry Stinger mudfest!

And lastly, I urge all parties to show a little respect to title of this section called DESIRABLE THOUGHTS!

Thank you.

Sting said...

Will do that,

But I would prefer foam party than mudfest (with 80's music)...he..he.

OK all, good night!

built62 said...

"..and now you wanna magnify that issue?...huh, what the....."

now, now, now... you dun need to get all vulgar-ed up; now, do you? and i hope you are not expecting for a fight cos you'll be very disappointed.

try not to make comments through listening through a friend. you will then be "talking with NO substance", really.

it would be impossible for me to continue if you have difficulty in understanding my postings.

all the best to you.

Panzer said...


Thanks for understanding.


Please, no more!

Panzer said...

It all ends HERE & NOW.

Sting said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sting said...

I respect you Panzer, the above post reply I've deleted...a little late.

Hi-Fi 4 Sale said...

Sting & built62,

This argument started simply because of an interpretation of the statement, "mini monitors with no subwoofer for a bass guitarist? wow!!!'

Guess what... actually it could just be a misintepretation right at the beginning, which led to the trail of (irrelevant, due to misinterpretation) comments above.

I believe if both of you had met each other in person before making these comments:
1. The above comment would not have been misnterpreted.
2. A positive discussion benefiting both of you would have followed.
3. You would both be great friends by now.

So, why not we all meet tomorrow at the Hi-Fi 4 Sale gathering tomorrow at 2pm-7pm, Hi-Way Laser, SS2? We can go for teh tarik and since I know Sting and have probably briefly communicated with Built62 (if I'm right about who you are) before, it should not be a problem for maggielurva and I to bridge the gap.

Your old phone number (012-3329xxx) seems to be unreachable. Can you call me? Thanks.

Maggielurva, Panzer. Hifikaki & gang,
Please do come as well.


built62 said...

"Guess what... actually it could just be a misinterpretation right at the beginning..."

"...have probably briefly communicated with Built62 (if I'm right about who you are) before, it should not be a problem for maggielurva and I to bridge the gap."

"misinterpretation" do happen at forums as they are all written, not spoken. however, unwanted incidents can be avoided by simply being positive.

and you are right. the system owner could also interpret my statement as a compliment to the VR1 (can perform low enough to even satisfy a bass guitarist) but...; which is good, at least i now "know" Sting. easy, isn't it? ;)

i am truly surprise that you still remember me. it was like 1-1.5 years ago at the start of your blog, if i am not mistaken. you do have a good memory. btw, good job done.

thanks for the offer to fill the gap, but i am not free at 2pm. another time perhaps. you guys have fun.

hifikaki said...

Hi-Fi 4 Sale,

Thanks for your hospitality this afternoon at the gathering.

It is nice to have met you and the other hifi4sale members.

Look forward to future interaction. :-)

Sting said...


Thanks for your call/sms man. I didn't know until this moment that this was all about. I was hoping for this gathering too but unable to attend due to my schedule. I just came back from Narita.

Teh tarik session, yeah why not. It's been a long time I didn't see you, 7 years?. The meeting session would be great. Till we meet then...

Sting said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sting said...

I found this review by independent user at and I think it can relate well to this particular review by Panzer. Review could be biased, but we look at consistency from professional and user reviews. The user add on sub as he used to big speakers but all Panzer's findings are there and hope can answers all doubts.

| Sorted by Latest Review | Sort by Best Rating >> | Sort by Worst Rating >> | View All >>
Reviewed by:
BigDaddy (Unregistered User)

Review Date
June 25, 2003

Overall Rating
5 of 5

Value Rating
5 of 5

Used product for
3 Months to 1 year

Visitors rate this review
5.00 of 5, 5.00 votes

Rate this review?

Review 16 of 19

Price Paid: $995.00 from Main dealer

Having been a total advocate of the 'big-box' speaker system and formerly used to owning a pair of the Von Schweikert VR-4.5 silver anniversary's, to suddenly decide to try out a small monitor speaker was almost like trying to convince President Bush not to go to war! But along comes the new Von Schweikert VR-1 reference monitor to smack me right in the face and let me know how ignorant my opinion was on speaker systems. My former VR-4.5's were connected up to class A krell amps and Meridian digital front-end, which gave the most exquisite sound in every aspect. Now I am using a smaller system (space confines in my current residence), and have a pair of the VR-1's set up with the following equipment: Meridian 500 CD transport with an Audio Alchemy DAC-in-the-Box (currently looking to upgrade this with the Perpetual Technologies set up), Musical Fidelity X-A2 integrated amplifier used as pre-amp in to an Audiolab 8000P power amp. Cables all by IXOS at present. After numerous hours of listening to this set up I can honestly say that whatever I throw at the VR-1's they just hand right back to you in the most accurate manner. They do what can only be described as draw you in to the music, and before you know it, you have pulled out stacks of CD's to play and you have lot's of tidying up to do! Female vocals are just superb on these little gems, playing Loreena McKennitt's Mask and the Mirror just fills the room with the ambience of the backgorund electronics, but when Leena's voice drops in centre stage, it is perfectly placed and toned, so much so that the only thing missing is her breath on your face. David Sylvian's 'Blackwater' as re-issued on the 'Everything and Nothing double CD set is just nerve tingling real. Of course, that's the whole marketing ploy of VSA, 'Virtual Reality', hence the VR prefix's on their products, and boy do they portray a sound that puts you right in the live event. I can ramble on forever about these speakers, but all I can say is that they have not moved from my system since plaing them there on trial three-months ago. My only grievance, and this only exists because I have been used to large speaker systems, is that they do not quite drop low enough, but I fixed that with the insertion of the Von Schweikert VR-S/3 reference sub-woofer, which totally deserves it's own review and 5 out of 5 rating. This might be over some peoples budgets, but don't panic, VSA have done it again with the superbly matched VR-S/1 sub-woofer system that has been designed to slot right in with the VR-1's.

Everything, whatever you play on them impresses.

Nothing that I have yet found considering price-per-performance level.

Similar Products Used:
VR-4.5'S, B&W 805's, ProAc,...too may to list!