Best of the Best


System components:

Conrad Johnson ART series III line stage

dCS Paganini digital playback system (4-box)

Naim NS02 music server

Cary Audio DMS-500 Music server

Jeff Roland Model 825 power amplifier (bass)

Audio Research Reference 750 mono block amplifiers (mids/tops)

Transition Audio Design active valve cross-over

Dali Megaline III loudspeakers

JL Audio F113 subwoofers x 2 

PS Audio active line conditioners x 2

Furutech Flux speaker cable

Furutech Digital interconnects

AudioQuest Sky/Niagara interconnects

Transparent Audio Premium power cables

Shunyata power cables

4 x Hi-Fi Tuning Cryo 32A Mains fuses

2 x Dedicated shielded mains cables from DB to US wall outlets

Hi-Fi Tuning Supreme and Silver mains fuses

Furutech GTX Dual Wall outlets x 4


Best of the best? Very possible. This is one gigantic hyper high-end system. What started out as a far better-than-average setup rapidly grew into this, an enthusiast’s ultimate dream. And yes, it is located in South-Africa! 

Our last upgrade rounded off what seems to be the perfect cost-no-object setup. We flew to Greece to take delivery of a line stage preamp that’s been out of production for nearly fifteen years. It is a unit with a difference though, because all those years ago there were no cost constraints on design and the execution thereof. Things have changed significantly since then. JFets are everywhere.

The Conrad-Johnson ART series III is a dual mono line stage preamp with a single triode gain stage per channel. No other active components are present in the signal path and there are zero electrolytic capacitors anywhere near both the power supply and signal paths. Everything capacitor is of the most expensive proprietary CJ designed Teflon items money can buy.

The volume control is a precision engineered relay selected resistive ladder with the most perfect signal preservation of any commercially available volume control in existence. For every volume setting from zero to 100, there is only one precision Vishay resistor in series with the signal. It doesn’t get better than this. Signal lost is lost forever, it cannot be recovered. 

The dCS Paganini seem to have been made to drive such an elaborate line stage. The ART enhances what comes out of it to unimaginable levels, but it also exposes it’s digital domain volume control. 0,5dB attenuation on the dCS is audible and disturbing once noticed and unconsciously stored in memory.

I’m quite familiar with the majestic Dali Megaline III loudspeakers with their array of ribbon tweeters. They may well be the ultimate line source loudspeakers out there and in this setup they really come into their own. There is a little secret to their stellar performance over here though. This pair is actively crossed-over by a custom built full vacuum tube network designed and hand built by Tom Tutay of Transition Audio Design. It even sports a separate valve power supply with old school valve rectification. Art in itself. 

Scale, presence, nuance, tangibility – name it. This system has all the answers. 

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