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🌵 Desert Sessions 🌵 2.0: Desert Sessions’ Rig UPDATED

November 21, 2022

When my wife and I acquired a second home in Phoenix last winter, I cobbled together a Phoenix stereo from extra components I had, some borrowed gear and a few key purchases. What follows is a description of the Desert Sessions’ rig.

Last January the rig was a pretty humble set up: an amp on top of a cardboard box, a turntable on a piece of tile I found in the garage, and all hooked up to the built in ceiling speakers that were pre-installed in the home. Functional, but not great.

🌵 Desert Rig 🌵 January 2022

This season things have all come together including a nice piece of furniture. We are fully functional and hopefully will not have to acquire any more gear for awhile.

🌵 Desert Rig 🌵 November 2022
(see turntable update below)

Amp – A few years ago I picked up a bespoke British integrated amp from Croft Acoustics. For reasons that I won’t go into, I actually have two of these units. I used one on the first level and one on the second level of our Minneapolis home. I took the lower level Croft to Phoenix and replaced Minneapolis with a Jolida FX10 I had in storage.

The Croft Phono Integrated is a tube/solid state hybrid. The preamp is tube and its special sauce is the phono preamp (thus the name). Besides the great sound, my favorite feature is that it has separate volume controls for the left and right channels. This is the perfect tool for room correction and to correct for my weaker right ear.

Turntable – I did not have an extra turntable and so I borrowed my daughter’s Music Hall mmf-2.2 le (she left it in storage given her small Manhattan NYC apartment). The turntable is a great sounding no-nonsense unit. It has a great backstory – see this link.

Music Hall mmf-2.2 le

Turntable update – Knowing I was ultimately going to have to return my daughter’s turntable, I decided to give myself a retirement gift. I picked up a Rega Planar 3 (P3) from a local Phoenix hi-fi shop (Audio Video Excellence, LLC). The P3 comes out of the box with a Rega Elys 2 MM cartridge. This is the best turntable I have ever had and sounds fantastic. I need some more time with the turntable to give it a full review and will add a link when available. Audio Video Excellence is a great shop – try to buy local when you can!

Rega Planar 3 (AKA P3)
🌵 Desert Rig 🌵 February 2023

Streamer – High resolution streaming (I use Tidal) is the greatest audiophile innovation in my lifetime. I struggled with a laptop and DAC for a number years. That works fine, but I wanted the convenience of using my phone via Bluetooth, but with audiophile sound. Streamers are the solution. I picked up a Bluesound Node 2i a few years ago for the Minneapolis system and loved it enough to get the most recent model for Phoenix.

Bluesound Node

Headphone amp – One glaring missing feature of the Croft is a headphone amp and so I purchased a Schiit Vali 2 for Minneapolis a few years ago. I brought it down to Phoenix with the intention of replacing the one in Minneapolis (I did with the Schiit Valhalla 2). The Vali is a great value: warm tube sound for $150 (of course I spent half that again for a tube upgrade).

Schiit Vali 2

Headphones – I have a pair of Grado SR80s that sound fantastic, but are uncomfortable as hell. I brought down a pair of AKG K240s – these old warhorses are plenty good too. Last winter I did a lot of headphone listening as I didn’t have any speakers for most of the season. I don’t expect to use headphones much this season.

Grado SR80
AKG K240

Speakers – for most of our first season I did not have speakers. I tapped into the built in ceiling speakers that came with the house, but they sounded pretty crappy and so I mostly listened on headphones. Near the end of the season I picked up some inexpensive Klipsch bookshelf speakers. That was a revelation – it turns out the home office space in the Phoenix home is a superb listening space – as audiophiles know the room is half the battle. I decided when we came back this season I would trade the Klipsch for the Paradigm Premier 800F I had in Minneapolis. Given a very open floor plan condo situation in Minneapolis, I found I mostly listened via headphones. The big speakers are a better suited for Phoenix and the bookshelf speakers are a better match for Minneapolis.

Paradigm Premier 800F

The Klipsch sounded great, but the Paradigms are next level: great sound stage, broad range (full but not booming bass for example) and the sound great and both low and high volume.

In summary, the desert rig is fully operational. The last critical component is a comfortable chair 😊 (on order). It sounds great. I retire at the end of the year and look forward to lots of listening pleasure this season in Phoenix! Hopefully there will be lots of album reviews of the 🌵 Desert Sessions 🌵 2.0.


From → Audio, Spending

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