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A Visit to Mike Lavigne's Home and Sound Galleries Media Server

amirm

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#1
I managed to get a bonus visit on at the Pacific Northwest Society's Bob Carver meeting to hear a new server from Sound Galleries (http://soundgalleries.com/) at Mike Lavigne's home. I had been to Mike's home a few years ago but not recently so this was a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

Sound Galleries Media Server is a purpose built Windows 10 PC with every software and hardware tweak you can think of. It runs HQPlayer internally and to do that it has the latest Intel i7-7700K CPUs (as of this writing). They overclock it to 4.6 Ghz which pushes it beyond the nominal 91 watt maximum dissipation rating of the CPU. Custom passive cooling is used through a machined solid copper heatsink (painted black).

093A8556.jpg


HQPlayer resamples everything to high-rate DSD. This drove an Aqua Formula DAC (http://www.aquahifi.com/formula.html).
093A8557.jpg


Software stack is Roon and the server runs "headless." Boot time was fast and of course the machine was silent. Boot drive is SSD with custom power supply for it. There is also a custom linear (!) power supply for the computer.



Custom CPU clock with low jitter is also used.

The case work is beautiful and I am sure quite expensive.

Lots of software tweaks in place including a tool that performs static partitioning of Roon by giving it two dedicated cores and the rest of the cores to HQPlayer. Smart as that allows the CPU cache to stay "warm" in running the same application as opposed to constantly switching between Roon and HQPlayer. The tool shows the thread counts for each and I was surprised to see so many (60+?) threads for Roon.

The base motherboard is ASUS. DD4 memory is used by they have tested many brands to arrive at the ones they picked. And some aluminum provides additional shielding for better sound.

The company owner is Edward Hsu (EuroDriver on forums) whom I found super friendly, delightful to talk to, and very interested in learning and experimenting.

093A8569.jpg


He lives in Monaco but development is done through distributed team with the core in Holland (Netherlands).

Retail price is $16,000. Settle down! Yes it is expensive but for such a low-volume machine with so much customization, I think the price is fine. It would take a ton of effort to duplicate the same machine.
 
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amirm

amirm

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As the headline indicates the demonstration was at uber audiophile Mike Lavigne's home. His estimate system cost is around $500,000. Mike is a generous host in person and makes everyone who attends his home most welcome.

His listening room is a fully remodelled barn that is converted to a beautiful listening space, complete with adjunct restrooms, drink bar, dedicated power, etc.

Here is Mike explaining a bit about his system of Evolution Acoustics MM7 and Dartzeel amplifiers.
093A8570.jpg


The room was designed by an acoustician originally but since then fairly modified by Mike. His equipment and system have also changed since.

You may be able to see the thin fabric that now covers every space where used to be gorgeous maple woodwork. This also includes the ceiling:

093A8561.jpg


The Dartzeel amplifiers are cute vertical blocks with a dynamic (but slow averaging) LED meters.

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Custom AC cables and of course fancy audio cables, "grounding devices" such as Entreq and TriPoint abound.

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Two beautiful Studer decks anchor the right side of the room:

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The audio "shrine" is on the left sporting the pre-amp and turntable:

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The aforementioned "grounding" devices:

093A8565.jpg


The power supply for the Dartzeel pre-amp:

093A8566.jpg


The EA MM7 are dual tower speakers with the sub tower having its own amplifier:

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Unfortunately I did not think of taking a wide shot until the room was pitch black. This image is heavily brightened and hence the fuzzy nature of it:

093A8572.jpg
 
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amirm

amirm

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I initially sat on the second room to the left. That is behind the sweet listening chair visible in the above picture.

I must say that experience was pretty disappointing. The sound was dull and uninteresting. Try as I might, I could not get excited or understand why people come back with superlatives to describe the sound in Mike's room. There was little soundstage, highs were muffled, bass rather dry but not blended in well, etc. On scale 1 to 10, I would give it 4.

We were taking turns to sit in the rolling center chair. I got my chance after 15 minutes or so and boy did that transform the experience. There was a precise depth to the soundstage with pretty high isolation of instruments. Highs came back to life and bass become very supportive. I did not want to hog the chair too long and gave it up to others.

The experience is quite predictable though. The speakers are hugely toed in toward the one seat. And listening space is very close to the speakers (I think Mike said 9 feet relative to 12 foot separation). In any other seat, you are hearing way off-axis sound of the speakers. And with walls having thin fabric, they act as high frequency filters of any reflections of direct sound. Put another way, in any other seat you are tasting two day old leftover dinner :).

Psychologically, there was another huge problem for me. Speakers are towering high and very imposing. You sit so close to them that I got the feeling they were in my personal space. I don't usually close my eyes when listening to music but had to do that here as to not keep thinking the two towers were going to fall on me!

Mike also likes a playback level that is pretty mild. I think that hugely under-utilized these speakers. Put succinctly and direct, I think the speakers are overwhelming for that listening spot and levels being used. BTW, the Dartzeel amps highest stated average power level was 25 watts. If it were me, I would push them to 100 easy! :D

BTW I walked around the room including to the back seat and the experience did not improve from the second row.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #4
I should note that none of what I have explained is about the music server. The speakers and room dominate my experiences in these listening spaces and with no other reference, I really have nothing to report on merits of the Sound Galleries Music Server.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Here are the music samples I listened to there.

I just used Shazam to discover Mediterranean Sundance/Rio Ancho (Live) by John McLaughlin;Paco De Lucia;Al Di Meola. https://shz.am/t10838834

Very nice music.
 
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amirm

amirm

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EmmyLou Harris Wrecking Ball:

Beautiful music.

I heard this in the center spot. I commented on the nice imaging but one other thing to note was that the sounds bouncing in the left and right speakers seemed too far in each direction and disconnected from the center image. This I believe is caused by sitting too close to the speaker relative to their width. It caused my attention to be taken away from the music and soundstage when it occurred.
 
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amirm

amirm

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I just used Shazam to discover My Foolish Heart by Bill Evans. https://shz.am/t10010026

176 khz high-res source. Nice shimmering highs.
 
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Out of the center seat for this one:

I just used Shazam to discover La Mer: No. 1. De L'aube A Midi Sur La Mer by Duisburger Philharmoniker. https://shz.am/t99569845

Can't find this track on youtube but here is one that should be close:


It sounded "OK."
 

RayDunzl

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What's Mike's Day Job?
 

dallasjustice

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#11
Ouch Amir! Couldn't you just pretend to like his system?

Why does it matter how much money or effort went into the server if it sounds the same as an E-machines circa 2001 running XP?
 
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I used to own Evolution Acoustics speakers and have heard various models of the EA speakers in different rooms and setups. I love Jonathan Tinn and I really think they look great. However, they aren't the best performers. I also agree that huge speakers are distracting and totally unnecessary. Sometimes I wonder whether the really large speakers perform worse off axis due to their size. IOW, they can't get out of their own way. The only EA speaker I really liked in my system was the little micro one.
Micro-One2.jpg
 

Thomas savage

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#13
I think your crown was covering your ears my lord ...

Generally audiophiles go for 'pleasing' 'polite' ' homogenised' ' smooth' sound.. Oh and listening volumes that would not wake even the lightest sleeping baby..

I love Bill Evans and Friday night in san Francisco is a great album:)

Every industry professional ( dealers designers etc) that have been to my house comment on my listening levels and preferred sound being ' out of the ordinary ' for a audiophile..

Those speakers mikes using could drive a basketball court :D
 

dallasjustice

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I think your crown was covering your ears my lord ...

Generally audiophiles go for 'pleasing' 'polite' ' homogenised' ' smooth' sound.. Oh and listening volumes that would not wake even the lightest sleeping baby..

I love Bill Evans and Friday night in san Francisco is a great album:)

Every industry professional ( dealers designers etc) that have been to my how comment on my listening levels and preferred sound being ' out of the ordinary ' for a audiophile..

Those speakers mikes using could drive a basketball court :D
I agree. I do love loud dynamic music. But that's not very sophisticated, now is it?
 

RayDunzl

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#15
He just says things like that for the benefit of us po' folks here at obviously failing ASR so we won't feel so bad with our inexpensive crappy little ungrounded often antique pedestrian toy systems in our acoustically deficient, under-cabled, under-powered and obviously all around ill-equipped rooms which aren't even detached from the main house and located somewhere in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest.

I still think I'm really happy with mine, though. One of you guys needs to come over and give me a wake-up call of a review, so I won't be so (generally silently) smug and will feel the need to upgrade something, anything, or everything, in that eternally just-out-of-reach if-I-only-had-a-brain search for a ticket to the Emerald City of Better Sound.

Lovely room and gear though, I'd take it. Maybe then somebody would come over for a listen, and subsequent bubble-bursting.
 

RayDunzl

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#17
This picture makes me think of any of those hotel-room demos we've been recently remote-viewing.

upload_2017-1-18_15-21-15.png


In Houston, one of the main engineers on the WilTel ATM project invited my Japanese NEC engineers over to his house for barbeque.

They were all excited and went, but then the after-barbeque turned into an Amway demo. They said they all fell asleep.
 

RayDunzl

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#18
Psychologically, there was another huge problem for me. Speakers are towering high and very imposing.
If I bought four more 15" CheezeWoofers ($720, delivered, total) my setup would be almost as imposing on the speakers side...
 
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Thomas savage

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I agree. I do love loud dynamic music. But that's not very sophisticated, now is it?
No it's not Michael but that's what I'd expect given your a red blooded Texan :D Let's be good audiophiles and keep the raw extremes of life that's reflected in the music we love way way out of things:confused:

Let's add enough noise and roll things off to cover the honest emotion of the artists, after all it's all about how I feel! :D

Major props to Mike though, personally I'd of kept amir outside.. Hell I can't believe he's even still allowed at these get togethers . What's mikes neighbors going to think when the FBI surveillance truck pulls up outside:eek::D they rely on amir to justify their yearly budget so follow him everywhere :D
 
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fas42

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#20
Sounds like the room treatment thing is totally out of control - it's become a pseudo anechoic chamber thingy, and lack of volume just emphasizes it even more.
 

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