I’ve been very pleased to read how various Stereophile writers (Stephen Mejias, John Atkinson, Robert Deutsch, John Marks, and Art Dudley, if I remember correctly) have praised the Leben CS300 and CS600 integrated amplifier based Hi-Fi systems featured at the Salon and Image Show in Toronto over the last few years.
The common thread in those successful showings is Jonathan Halpern (Tone Imports) who imports Leben, EMT, Shindo, Auditorium 23, and other audio exotica to the US.
Jonathan has great ears and great taste in putting together winning combinations of Hi-Fi gear that punch WAY ABOVE their weight, often winning ‘best sound of show’ over competitors with Hi-Fi systems that are 10 to 100 times more expensive. No doubt about it, that’s impressive results, and you might be wondering what those systems had in common other than Jonathan’s exquisite taste in music and gear – I sure was.
So I asked Jonathan for some more information about his Golden Ear recipe for show winning combinations, and what I found out will encourage music lovers everywhere because it is surprisingly achievable and affordable.
Jonathan combines a decent entry level turntable & arm combo with an EMT phono cartridge and an Auditorium 23 step-up transformer, plus a Leben vacuum tube integrated amplifier & phono stage, plus decent entry level speakers, plus a few well chosen accessories, plus careful setup, plus some good music, which results in a winning combination. Here’s some more details:
Electronics: Each show system was based on either the Leben CS-300XS or CS-600 vacuum tube integrated amplifiers from Japan, along with the Leben RS-30EQ vacuum tube phono stage. When Jonathan used the CS-300XS he used JJ EL84 vacuum tubes, and he used EL34 vacuum tubes in the CS-600.
Speakers: Entry level ProAc or deVore loudspeakers were used depending on the year.
Source: an entry level turntable & arm combination, which differed depending on the year of the show (Brinkman or Clearaudio). The important common element was EMT phono cartridges (an EMT TSD15N with the CS-300XS or an EMT JSD6 with the CS-600) combined with the Auditorium 23 ‘103’ style step-up transformer.
Cables: Interconnects and speaker cables were Auditorium 23. I’m using the A23 speaker cables on my Tannoy Westminster Royal Special Edition loudspeakers and they are an exquisite match. I haven’t had a chance to try the A23 interconnects yet.
Accessories: a Shindo Mr. T power conditioner and a Box Furniture Company equipment rack.
That’s it on the equipment front, but Jonathan did tell me that “I believe careful set up is a key part of our success.”
So there you have it: a simple, well chosen group of equipment, careful setup, some good music, and you have a winning combination without breaking the bank.
How cool is that!