Maximize Your Space With a Wall Shelf (or two)

aa-shelfLiving with a music system in a small space can often make for some interesting compromises, and once you start assembling a system, it seems as if there is never enough space.

Add wobbly floors to the mix, and listening to records can really become a nightmare – though it may make you really light on your feet, to eliminate the tonearm jumping around. Springy floors or not, getting a couple of components up off the floor can help minimize your systems footprint.

We’ve had excellent results with SolidSteel shelves (like the one pictured here) easily available at Music Direct.

The amount of weight you plan on hanging from the wall will determine how you mount one of these. The shelf featured here offers three mounting holes across the top and bottom rail. If possible, try to get the middle mounting hole anchored solidly to a 2 x 4. If you don’t have one, get your hands on a stud finder like this one from Home Depot or Amazon. It will set you back about $20. Don’t forget to grab a battery while you’re at it!

With the middle mounting hole firmly anchored to the stud, I still suggest maximum reinforcement. Use 75 pound wall anchors on the four remaining mounting holes and you should be able to sit on this platform, so it should hold a pair of substantial turntables, or a turntable and phono stage with ease.

Find a Spot For Those Chargers!

aa_find-a-spotI hope that you are all more organized than I am.

But if you aren’t, here’s a handy tip… Create a central place where all your wireless chargers can congregate to recharge. This will eliminate clutter, avoid last minute confusion, and get you out of an endless cycle of playing Pokemon Go, looking for cords and chargers. Now that I’ve got a spot, there’s no turning back!

If your devices support wireless charging, consider the NORDMARKE from Ikea. Of course it’s stylish because it’s from Ikea and it’s reasonably priced at $59.95. You can see it, along with other wireless charging options from IKEA here.


Tough to Beat: The SVS Prime Bookshelf Speakers


These days $500 doesn’t buy much in the world of audio.

Reflecting back on a pair of ADS L400s, that had a retail of $400 a pair back in the late 1980s, the SVS Prime Bookshelf speakers are indeed impressive. There are speakers with an extra zero on the MSRP that have nowhere near the level of fit and finish that the Primes offer, especially the piano black model. (which actually cost $600 a pair, a matte black ash finish is standard) Whether you want to fork over the extra hundred bucks for the shiny speakers is up to you. When it comes to hifi on a budget, I’d spend an extra Benjamin on a better amp or phono cartridge, but that’s me.

The Primes make an excellent showing with any source. I ran them through a wide gamut of music with a Paradigm MRX510 (2ch mode only), Simaudio ACE integrated, PrimaLuna ProLogue One integrated and a recently refurbished Marantz 2245 reciever. While all provided a different feel, due to the differences in amplification, all were enjoyable.


Elvis Costello’s rendition of the Burt Bacharach classic “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” from The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack instantly reveals the smooth yet revealing character of these speakers. A little softer when rendered by the vacuum tubed PrimaLuna and a little punchier through the solid state choices. Chrissie Hynde’s lead vocals permeating Pretenders 2 has the same effect. These little speakers do a great job of keeping fairly dense tracks well sorted. Of course those audiophile vocal jewels, should you choose that mission, will convince your buddies who haven’t heard of SVS that you spent a lot more for these speakers than you did. And that’s pretty awesome isn’t it?

Switching the faire to acoustic music is even more impressive. When playing Brad Mehldau’s latest, Blues and Ballads the soundstage created between the Primes vastly exceeded the boundaries of these speakers on their stands, going all the way out to the side walls of my modest 11 x 17 foot listening room. Mehldau’s piano is reproduced with timbre and texture – something you don’t usually get with $500 a pair speakers.

Pace and timing is also quite good on a record like this – the cymbals hang in the air with a lot of shimmer and the bass accompanying Mehldau has some texture and not only keeps the groove going, but goes fairly deep – a major achievement for a small, budget loudspeaker. Should you be a fan of more bass heavy tracks, consider adding one of SVS’s subwoofers, which is exactly what I did, being that we have their SB-2000 powered sub ($699).

Giving the volume control a mad twist, playing Claude Challe’s Select 9 had the house shaking like the time SpongeBob invited the jellyfish home to party at his pineapple. If you step it down a notch to the $499 SB-1000, you’ve got an amazingly capable system for a thousand dollars, and if a sub is not in the cards right now, I can’t think of a better pair of $500 speakers to put on your short list. Those wanting a full home theater system can keep it in the family with a matching center channel and possibly a pair of Prime Towers for just under a thousand bucks a pair. The crew at SVS offers a 45 day trial, so if you don’t like ‘em as much as I do – send em back. But I’m guessing hardly anyone ever does.


The SVS Prime Bookshelf speakers sound as great as they look. They are the perfect anchor for a reasonably priced, high performance audio system. Highly recommended.

And in honor of our first year, we are now going to start handing out a few awards and the Prime Bookshelf speakers get our first “Year’s Finest” award for 2016.


The Neo230 HAD from MOON by Simaudio: Marvelous!

aa_sim-230-had_1Soldiering on with an older, tube based headphone amp/DAC/Preamp that’s given me good service in the desktop system, the upgrade bug hit suddenly and swiftly. Something new would have to address my growing library of high-resolution audio files as well as my constant streaming from my Tidal account. Most offerings from the usual suspects proved frustrating. Considering my vintage FM tuner collection, this new component would need at least one or two analog inputs to accomodate that to make me a happy camper.


A few close audiophile friends suggested the  Neo 230HAD from MOON by Simaudio, which covers all the bases, so the hunt was on. The Neo 230HAD proves to be as versatile as I’d hoped and is a fabulous performer to boot. With six inputs; four digital and two analog, I can connect source components till the cows come home. Digital signals are served by two coax inputs, one optical input and one high speed USB input. Analog sources can be connected via RCA inputs on the rear of the unit or via mini plug on the front panel – this is particularly handy. Input selection is handled by an easy to read front panel switch and corresponding LEDs.

Two RCA analog outputs are offered; one fixed and one variable, so it can serve double duty as a headphone amp and DAC for a larger system or as a standalone line level preamplifier feeding a power amplifier and speakers – making this little headphone amp that could a game changer for me. It is little: only 3 x 7 inches, stretching back 11 inches, so have a deep shelf or desktop. And at almost seven pounds, be ready to do a few bicep curls with this baby; lifting the cover reveals a stuffed circuit board and a major power supply. No corners have been cut here, the 230HAD has the same level of the full sized Moon components.

aa_sim-230-had_2Listening begins with tidal and a pair of NHT Pro monitors, eliminating the need for a power amp, but do require the variable outputs of the 230HAD. Though Simaudio has an excellent reputation for high quality, I was not prepared for what hit me upon firing up my favorite TIDAL playlist. Where the outgoing unit never fully engaged me at the desktop level, the MOON commanded my complete attention as if I were listening to the big system in my living room. The bass had far more control and articulation than I was used to on the desktop with these speakers. Moreover, the inner detail, soundstage and lack of glare pulled me in to the point where I feel kind of guilty now spending so much time listening at the desktop and neglecting the main.


Streaming hi res PCM and DSD files from my NAS via an AURALiC Aries feeding the USB input on the Moon proved even more interesting. The internal DAC in the HAD230 is easily as good as many outboard DACs I’ve heard costing as much as the HAD230! Impressive indeed.


Moving on to the headphone section, the source of my initial intrigue, my tough to drive Mr. Speakers Alpha Dogs were a breeze, no matter how high the volume level. Of course my trusty Sennheiser 650s, a long time favorite that offer up a much more benign load came to life in a way they never have. Those with Oppo or Audeze planars need not worry either; they are a perfect compliment to the HAD230. I can’t imagine a set of phones that would cause an issue for this robust headphone amplifier. Every kind of program material from the most delicate female vocals to the hardest driving metal is dynamic and full of delicate nuance.


Just like the bigger Neo 430HA, the 230HAD is a phenomenal building block for a great two-channel system. Moving to my second room, pairing this jewel with a pair of Vandersteen 1Cis and a 40-watt per channel PrimaLuna tube power amplifier makes for a glorious combination. Whether streaming straight from TIDAL or spinning some vinyl via the new Rega Planar 3 turntable with my trusty Black Cube phonostage, you’ll love this box, even if you never plug a pair of headphones into it, and my assessment with the DAC applies equally well, the 230HAD is worth the $1,495 asking price just as a DAC and pre.


aa_sim-230-had_3Major headphone happiness led to tweaking my desktop system further. Replacing USB, RCA and power cables have taken things to dizzy new heights. I never dreamed that a desktop system could be so much fun. Whether you want a primo desktop system, or a great anchor for a high performance/moderate budget two-channel system, get down to your MOON by Simaudio dealer and grab a 230HAD. You’ll have years of listening pleasure ahead of you.