What High Fidelity Systems Do L.A.'s High End Audio & Home Theater Dealers Recommend?

As a follow up to our duo of articles on recommended components (Issue No. 71, “Are Recommended Components Worth Recommending?” and “Components That Withstand The Test Of Time”), we asked those listed in our Directory of Southern California High-End Audio & Home Theater Dealers (Issue No. 69) what they recommend for a system, preferably in the below $5,000 range. All other criteria was left open ended. Dealers could opt for a home theater system or basic stereo; basic black versus cream and sugar. Here’s what the respondents came up with:

2337 Roscomare Road, Stes 6, 7 & 8, Bel Air, CA 90077
Tel: 310-440-5522; Fax: 310-440-5526
Web Address: http//www.ambrosia.com
“Since Ambrosia Audio & Video was founded as a business that catered to music lovers, we elected to recommend a system that would concentrate on music, not theater. As such, here is our recommended system:

Dunlavy Audio Labs SC1 speaker $995 Golden Tube Audio SE-40 $980
Golden Tube Audio SEP-1 preamp $880
Meridian 506 CD player $1695
Transparent “Basic” Cable (2pr. 1m IC; 1pr. 8’ SC) $555
Total $5105

We went $100 over the limit to squeeze the cable in. Ambrosia stresses the fact that cable plays a very important part in the sound of the system. In the cable world, we feel it is impossible to do better than Transparent Audio. The Golden Tube combo was chosen because there is simply no better value in audio. This little amp and preamp have been receiving a ton of well-deserved press, because no one else can offer their sound quality or build quality for anywhere near the price. The spectacular Dunlavy SC1 was chosen because of its sonic neutrality and complete absence of grain. This speaker may not have stunning bass, but you will be hard pressed to find a more accurate monitor. It definitely lives up to the legacy started by its bigger brothers, the SC IV and the SC VI. The source is where the chain starts, and usually where the problems start. The importance of a high quality CD player cannot be avoided. A cheap CD player will reproduce music with a harshness and glare, usually attributed to the $2.00 DACs used. No one has done more to advance the state of digital than Bob Stuart at Meridian. There 506 CD player may be the most expensive component in our system, but it is worth every penny and more.”

4719 Elkridge Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275-3901
Tel: 310-541-8177; Fax: 310-377-5046 (call to activate)
E-Mail: ssokolsk@kaiwan.com

“You will find two recommendations below. The first one complies (not altogether successfully) with your general guideline of keeping the system price below $5000. The second is more of a ‘no holds barred’ type of recommendation, which produces a system with sound in, say, the upper five percent. I am able to assemble both systems for a customer, but I don’t always have every component for demo purposes. Generally, I can usually demo the more expensive system, as well as portions of the lower priced system.”

Epos ES22 speakers (floor standing) $2495
PSE Studio IV stereo amp $995
PSE Studio SL preamp with phono stage $950
Creek CD42 CD player $1095
Cardas interconnects & speaker cables* $1000
Total for basic system $6535

Merrill Heirloom B turntable $1095
Morch UP-4 tonearm $750
Grado 8MZ $200
Magnum Dynalab FT11 FM tuner $545
Total for add-ons $2590

Nestorovic Type 5as MkIV speakers** $4500
PSE Studio V monoblocks (pair) *** $1990
Sonic Frontiers SFL-2 preamp (line) $3695
Klyne 7PX3.5 (phono stage) $3950
Merrill Heirloom III turntable $1950
Graham 1.5t/c tonearm $2900
Clearaudio Signature cartridge $2100
McCormack Digital Drive SST-1 $1495
Resolution Audio A/D converter**** $3350
Magnum Dynalab FT10A FM tuner $850
Cardas interconnects & speaker cables $2000
Total system cost $28780
* Estimate
** Line Range = $4500-11000
*** Interim Recommendation
**** Available Fall 1996

5236 Colodny Drive, Suite 101, Agoura Hills, CA 91301
Tel: 818-879-1312; Fax: 818-879-0416
E-Mail: jaser@mailhost.primenet.com

Here is our system recommendation for under $5000:
AMC CVT 2100 vacuum tube amp $2000
AMC CVT 1030 vacuum tube preamp $1000
Merlin TSM speakers (pair) $2000
Lovan Ballet 2 2400 speaker stands $219
Total price $4719

With our discount prices, you can afford good cables from Audio Magic, Audioquest, Kimber, Music Metre or XLO.

2695 Bayshore Avenue, Ventura, CA 93001
Tel: 805-658-8311; Fax: 805-658-8395

Naim CD3 CD player* $1800
Naim 92 preamp/90 amp $1500 for both
Spendor 3/1 speakers** $1300
Epos ES14 stands*** $300
Total for system $4900
Options: Rega Planar 3 turntable with Bias cartridge**** $650
Gene Rubin’s comments:
* The source is always the most important link in the system chain.
** Spendor is, by far, the most tonally natural- sounding speaker line.
*** Good speaker stands are imperative.
**** The Planar 3 represents 90 percent of the performance of the expensive turntables, but only about 25 percent of their cost.




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