Herb n’ HiFi’s Daily Drivers
The Receiver – Yamaha R-N303 (n/a – uPGRADED)
The R-N303 is a very straight forward two-channel network receiver, that unlike many receivers in its price point, offers an onboard phono-stage along with all the streaming and connectivity options you could want.
What truly matters when it comes to a stereo receiver is sound, and this Yamaha packs a punch. At 100w per channel (at 8ohms), the R-N303 doesn’t have any issue moving the Den’s pair of vintage Bang & Olufsen Beovox S35 MKII, Klipsch CF-2s, or any number of 8ohm rated floor standing and bookshelf speakers.
The R-N303 is a connectivity beast, with two standard line-in RCA inputs, a surprisingly good onboard phono-stage, both TOSLINK/SPDIF and Coaxial digital connections, and supports a shit ton of online music streaming services over WIFI or wired internet connection
Check out my full review on the Yamaha R-N303 HERE.
Turntable #1 – Technics SL-5200
While not as iconic as the SL-1200, the SL-5200 is a semi-automatic top-level midrange turntable that sports a similar coreless magnetic platter mechanism to the legendary DJ deck.
With late 70s styling, the chunky Technics SL-5200 glows up like a Christmas tree when powered on, illuminating a prism-esk target light and an orange soft glowing strobe light.
A standout feature is the muted queuing system that makes for some very smooth and quiet needle drops. It’s just so quiet until the music starts flowing out of the speakers.
Currently, the Den’s SL-5200 is fitted with an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge . A few other minor upgrades include a cork/rubber hybrid mat and an anti-static brush arm for reduced pops and clicks.
Check out the full post on this turntable and its refurbishment process, HERE.
Turntable #2 – Fluance RT-85 (N/A – uPGRADED)
I know I push a lot of my Direct Drive ideology here on Herb n’ Hifi, but the RT85 just has so much going for it, that it makes it a no brainer when looking for a feature-rich and solid brand new deck.
The Fluance is an analog deck, so no internal preamp, which for me is a win. It’s has a heavy MDF plinth, with a thick acrylic platter spun by an external belt and offset motor pully system, just like those super fancy TTs from Project and Rega. However, the Fluance has more straight forward controls, like dial-based anti-skating instead of little weights on fishing wire, and a switch to go from 33 to 45 rpm without having to reposition the belt on the motor pulley.
The 85 also has an “S” shaped tonearm with standard headshell, which I appreciate a lot, making it super easy to swap out carts. Not that you would initially want to, because this turntable comes equipped with an Ortofon 2M Blue out of the box, which is hands down one of the best MM cartridges you can get for under $300.
With all the fancy features and Ortofon 2M Blue at a price of $500 (at the time of writing this), the Fluance RT85 is the sub $1000 turntable to beat, in my opinion.
Check out my long-term review for Fluance RT85 HERE.
Phono Preamp – Project Tube Box S2
The Project Tube Box S2 is a pure tube-based phono pre-amp, so ZERO OP-AMPS, and it offers a rich warm sound-stage that can only be reproduced by adding tubes to your setup. It has both buttons on the front and dip-switches underneath to adjust impedance and loading, letting you fine-tune it to fit practically any moving magnet and moving coil cartridges.
CD Player – Sony PlayStation SCPH-1001
The PlayStation SCPH-1001 is Sony’s first iteration of its first-ever gaming console. What makes the SCPH-1001 so special is its internal D1AC and CD chipset, which is touted by many audiophiles and experts to be one of the best CD players you can own.
My SCPH-1001 is not modded, but I did add some add-ons to make things a little bit simpler. I swapped out the skinny gen-1 PlayStation controller with a PlayStation 2 DVD remote. I also added a small 3.5” LCD screen that connects to the PlayStation’s composite video out, giving me more visible control options.
From my experience, while the Sony PlayStation SCPH-1001 sounds great, it isn’t dramatically superior to other good CD players from the time. However, its nostalgic retro video game vibe fits right in with the slight quirkiness of the rest of the HiFi Den’s stereo setup.
Overall, the Sony PlayStation SCPH-1001 is a great little CD player, that adds a little boost of nostalgia every time you swap a disc and boot it up.
Audio Streamer – Google Chromecast Audio
The audio-only version of Google’s Chrome-based HDMI dongle, Chromecast Audio is small, cheap, discreet, and works with practically any streaming service you can access on your phone, tablet, or laptop (I use TIDAL as my primary streaming service).
Its 3.55mm out doubles as an optical out, and can be plugged directly into a standalone DAC or the optical in on the back of your receiver or amp.
If you have more than one Chromecast Audio, it’s super easy to configure a Speaker Group, making it the simplest way to set-up multiroom audio that I have ever encountered.
It’s too bad that in late 2018, Google decided to pull the plug on this little guy. While not totally impossible to find on the second-hand market, unfortunately, scalpers have hiked the price of this little $35 streamer to as much as $120.
While maybe not as feature-rich as more audiophile centric streaming platforms, like ROON, or Blue OS, the Chromecast Audio offered a simple, cheap, and discreet way to stream high-quality audio to practically any speaker or setup.
Check out my full review on Google’s Chromecast Audio, HERE.
DAC – Schiit Modi 3
It’s in the name… This thing is the SHIT!
Modi 3 is a small and stylish all-metal HiFi box that, with 3 digital inputs on the rear, and a standard RCA out. Powered over USB, the 3 digital inputs include USB, COAX, and of course optical TOSLINK. The front is simple and straightforward, with a power light and a single switch to choose between the three digital inputs.
While it might be a tough sell over an internal DAC in a full-fledged receiver or integrated amp, for amps that lack a digital input, Modi 3 offers a wide, detailed, and loud soundstage that sounds much more expensive than its $100 price tag.
Modi 3’s size also makes it great for a desktop setup along with some of Schiit’s similarly styled headphone and desktop amps, like the Magni 3+. A little piece of Schiit like this can also be a great way to upgrade your TV’s audio over TOSLINK.
Check out my full thoughts on the Schiit Modi 3 HERE.
Speaker Set A – Klipsch CF-2 Loudspeakers
The Klipsch CF-2 speakers are big, loud, and obnoxious, and I absolutely love them!
These speakers hail from Klipsch’s mid-90s “Epic” series and come in on the small side if the lineup behind the CF-3 and CF-4. It’s a 2-way setup that sports double 8-inch woofers and Klipsch’s renowned horn-loaded tweeter, along with a big ol’ bass port on the bottom.
Like almost all Klipsch loudspeakers, the CF-2s are super-efficient and do not need a lot of power. Not something I can say about the Magnepan MG-Cs that they replaced. Overall, these beefy beauties fill up the room with sound pretty easily.
The bass is where the CF-2s really shine, and that was something that I was missing from my old pair of Maggies and my vintage Bang & Olufsen S35s. Full-bodied bass that’s great for rock and hip-hop while filling out older thin-sounding recordings. The bass can be a little boomy at times,but with a little bit of volume hunting (and bass control) they offer just the right amount of thump for the Den’s subwoofer-less setup.
The Klipsch CF-2s are currently the Den’s primary reference speakers.
Speaker Set B – Bang & Olufsen Beovox S35-2
Until recently, the Beovox S35s were the Den’s primary (A) speaker set.
It’s 70s-esk aesthetic, yet still, timeless cherry wood finish on top of the original aluminum stands make this one of the most beautiful pairs of speakers I’ve personally ever owned, easily coming up against other legendary vintage speakers from the 60s and 70s like the JBL L100 Century and Klipsch Hersey.
B&O speakers are, for the most part, designed to work with other Bang & Olufsen components, and uses proprietary DIN connectors, which you kind of need to hack and splice to hook up to an amp or receiver with more standard connections. A little bit of a hassle, and it is one of the biggest drawbacks in my opinion, but the end result is worth it.
The sound signature is classic B&O. While just a tad less detailed than the more popular (and much more expensive) S45s, most likely due to the missing midrange-woofer, the S35s give provide a warm and inviting sound that doesn’t overdo it with treble and bass. Speaking of bass, these speakers aren’t very bass-heavy at all, a major reason why I got the Klipsch CF2 tower speakers.
Personally, I think the S35s (and B&O speakers in general) offer just the right amount of coloration and warmth to a neutral setup, pumping out a sound I can only most accurately refer to as comforting. They sound great both at low and high volumes and offer great detail and separation.
Audio Switcher – Sony SB-12 System Selector
As you can tell, the Den’s Yamaha R-N303 doesn’t have enough standard RCA inputs to support all the components that I want plugged into it. That’s where my trusty Sony SB-12 System Selector comes in.
This simple to use audio switch takes one RCA input and splits it up to 3 plus one 3.55mm aux input. That’s it!
What I really like about it, besides its satisfying clicky piano-style keys, is its small size, and that it offers really good accessibility to the connections, as opposed to pulling the whole receiver out from the rack.
The 3.55mm input is also a nice addition since my R-N303 lacks any front RCA or AUX inputs, making hot-swapping gear and connecting something like a phone or laptop a little bit easier.