The Y2K Audio System
by Dick Olsher
Note: Reprinted from Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine, November 1999 Issue
On the eve of the next millennium we introduce our Y2K compliant audio system, or to be more precise a system for about $2K that is most definitely worth saying Yes to. What's waiting for you behind door No.1 is no nasty bug. Rather, it's a treat for music lovers on a budget. I have been advocating a systems approach to audio as a means of maximizing one's return on investment. Synergy is difficult to achieve at any price point, but the task borders on the impossible at the lower price points. Hence, I'm particularly proud to introduce you to the following system that strikes directly at the heart of the musical experience. This then is the Senior Editor's recommended $2K system. It may be refined and updated in the future. Additional amplification or other allowable substitutions will be investigated and described as the system evolves over time. For now, I'll be describing a system sound where the sonic summation of the pieces is much greater than the sound of its individual pieces. Any "unauthorized" substitutions" are greatly discouraged. If you want to obtain this particular sound, then it's critical that you duplicate all of the links as described below. Let me emphasize that you can do far worse for even twice the money the Y2K system is that good - but only if you stay faithful to the overall system makeup.
I hesitate to label our Y2K system as an entry-level, although it is clearly the cheapest ticket I know of to a meaningful musical experience. I find myself enjoying this system sufficiently so as to happily live with it for a considerable length of time. It is certainly a safe bet as a second system, and probably ideal as a primary system for small rooms and apartment dwellers limited to playback at civilized sound levels. This is not a party system. It is categorically unsuitable for "head bangers" looking for raw decibels above all else. However, if you're looking to relax with good music after a long day in the office, the Y2K system will do admirably. The system has a definite sonic character, which you should take note of and decide for yourself whether you can embrace its basic tonal balance. The presentation may be likened to a Row-M concert hall perspective: natural, laid-back upper midrange, lacking some of the bite and immediacy of an up-front seat. If such a balance isn't your cup of tea, then you should not pass Go.
1. The Loudspeaker: Magnepan's Magneplanar MMG ($500/pr)
This past June marked designer Jim Winey's 30th anniversary in the wonderful world of planar-magnetic loudspeakers. It was Winey's vision of a planar speaker that caused him to quit his job with the 3M Company in 1969 and found Magnepan. He explained the genesis of the basic concept to me during an interview in 1998. While at work, his mind drifted to the air conditioner vent overhead. As he listened to the air rushing through the grill, a light bulb went off in his head. He visualized the possibility of a novel sonic transducer: replace the grill with a suitable array of magnets and place a conductive diaphragm underneath. Thus was born the planar-magnetic drive principle. He rushed home to try the idea. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Magnepan's bass and midrange panels use a thin wire bonded to Mylar as the diaphragm element in the transducer. While a true ribbon tweeter is used in its most expensive models (MG3.6 and MG20), a quasi-ribbon (QR) element (see cutaway sectional view) is used for the rest of the line including the popular model MG1.6 ($1,475/pr). While it only approximates the speed, resolution, and extension of the true ribbon tweeter, the QR offers excellent sound for a fraction of the cost. I far prefer it to the sound of cheap dome tweeters, the sort that are typically bundled in a two-way box speaker retailing at $500. Its line source radiation pattern means that dispersion is limited vertically and there's also some beaming in the horizontal plane.
It is possible to position the speaker in two basic ways: with the QR along the inside edge or along the outside edge of the panel. For optimum imaging in my listening room (24 x 14 x 10 ft), I preferred outside QR placement. I also found it helpful to toe-in the speakers so that the axes of the QR tweeters crossed slightly in front of the listening seat. Tilting the speakers back to the maximum extent allowable by folding the rear metal flippers, also helped integrate the speakers in my room. You may, however, want to experiment in these respects to suit the needs of your room.
Magnepan has resisted the temptation over the years to hybridize its full-range planar-magnetic designs by the addition of a box woofer. Electrostatic-dynamic hybrids have become popular in the last decade, mainly through the marketing of Martin-Logan. Certainly, these hybrids have brought the midrange magic of electrostatics within reach of the mass market. To my ears, however, they fail to integrate properly and must be considered a sonic compromise. In particular, it is the transition from the upper midrange to lower midrange and upper bass that sounds unnatural. The dichotomy between the speed and resolution of the electrostatic panel and that of the box woofer is obvious enough. But there is also the discrepancy in radiation patterns between the two and the manner in which the two disparate transducers couple sound energy to the room. A full-range planar speaker is a true dipole: energy is radiated with opposite polarity from both sides of the panel. Providing that there's enough breathing space behind the speakers, such directionality helps to flesh out a believable soundstage. Realistic image size is another unique attribute of planar speakers. I've listened to a horde of expensive dynamic speakers over the years, including $50K plus designs with an impressive array of woofers, mids, and tweeters. While there's a lot to like about big dynamic speakers, image size is not one of them. A large planar woofer can synthesize the original surface loudness density of large instruments such as a piano, for example. When you have a lot of acoustic energy (as in the case of a piano) radiated form a large sounding board, the surface loudness density should be fairly low to recreate the proper wave launch at the speaker. An 8-inch or even a 12-inch woofer just can't do that.
One of the true glories of full-range planars is their ability to capture the power range or guts of an orchestra. Hey, planars always have, and always will do this well. Even the MMG, the most diminutive of planar-magnetic speakers, standing a mere 48-inches tall, does a credible job of recreating the lower mid and upper bass range. It simply does not sound like a small speaker. The frequency range from about 200 Hz to 1 kHz sounds absolutely full-bodied and plants a proper foundation for jazz and orchestral music. The tonal balance is laid back, being recessed a couple of dB over the range from 1.5 kHz to about 5 kHz. In the first of two frequency response curves below, the near field response (at about 3 feet) of the MMG clearly shows the lack of upper midrange energy relative to the lower mids and treble. It's important to point out that these are in-room measurements not anechoic and include room artifacts.
This is the sort of tonal balance that is forgiving of bright recordings. Pop albums EQ'd by mixing engineers with cotton balls in their ears come through with less bite. Actually, most pop music today is balanced for radio play and is at least a couple of dB too hot for my taste when played back on a high-resolution system. What you get here is a back of the hall perspective. Soprano voice was a bit darker than the real thing, sounding a tad bleached out relative to the full palette of harmonic color. Similarly, violin overtones lacked the ultimate measure of sheen and brilliance. This is not necessarily an unpleasant effect, as female singers gained a bit in the chest department. The relative strength of the lower midrange also catered nicely to male voice.
Note that Magnepan provides optional tweeter attenuation in the form of resistors (1 and 2 ohm values) that can be connected on the back plate in series with the tweeter. These provide up to 4 db of attenuation in the treble. I found no reason to use treble attenuation in the context of this system. With this sort of balance, component matching becomes critical, as it's all too easy to push the system sound towards the dark and boring side of the Force. And that was exactly the case with even the 1-ohm resistor in place.
The second frequency response curve was taken in the far field, near the listening seat. This is actually a very decent result and is representative of the balance I was exposed to during the listening tests. You don't see very narrow interference effects in these plots because of the 1/3-octave averaging I use routinely, but the range above 300 Hz is very well behaved. Room modes are clearly visible in the bass range. What is more interesting, however, is that midrange recession has filled in somewhat. This is due to the contribution of reflected midrange energy and highlights the need to control the distance from the speaker to the rear wall. Side-wall reflections aren't a big issue with dipole speakers. The big offender in terms of early reflections is the rear wall. With the speakers out on the order of 4 to five feet from the rear wall, the soundstage was remarkably spacious with excellent image clarity. Detail resolution was reminiscent of far more expensive speakers. The trick is to delay the rear reflections by about 10 milliseconds. Keep in mind that each foot of distance traveled by the rear wave equals about 1 millisecond of time delay. Pushing the speaker much closer to the rear wall resulted in a muddled midrange presentation, lacking in clarity and resolution. The Owner's Manual recommends a minimum spacing of at least two feet. This isn't nearly enough for optimum midrange performance, although the bass does benefit from a closer coupling to the wall. Too far out into the room, the MMG lost bass power. My recommendation is to tuck the speaker out of the way if the spouse insists. Move it (it's easy enough to lift) next to the wall when not in use, and then move it out several feet for critical listening. When everything is right, the MMG is a captivating speaker. It facilitates the musical experience by allowing the listener to embrace the music's emotional content. This is a direct consequence of the MMG's speed, cohesiveness, detail resolution, and ability to throw a believable soundstage with realistic image sizes. Other speakers at this price point simply throw major roadblocks in the road to enjoyment. For $500, I would normally expect either a pathetic tonal balance that makes a joke out of instrumental timbres, or soundstage veiling and other distortions that actively limit and interfere with the listening experience.
As you can see, the bass response in my listening room is flat to about 60 Hz. You might do a few cycles per second better in a smaller room, but that's about it. A more serious problem is the limited bass dynamics. This is not the speaker for organ music aficionados. The speaker is fused and is shipped from the factory with a 3-amp fast-blow fused (the maximum fuse value is 4 amps). In the bass, expect the stock fuse to blow with a sustained input in excess of about 50 watts. In my experience, a speaker of moderate sensitivity (mid 80s) should do just fine in a small room. Most of us listen at average sound pressure levels in the 80s. The MMG should be good for about 10 dB of headroom above that base line with normal program material.
Much has been made of the need for exotic high-current amplification to drive Magneplanar speakers. Probably, the basis for such notion is the 4-ohm nominal impedance of the speaker range. Clearly, the MMG's partnering amp should be comfortable with delivering 50 watts of power into a 4-ohm load, but that not asking a lot of most mid-fi and hi-fi solid-state amplifiers today. As you can see from the MMG's impedance plot, the impedance magnitude does not dip below 5 ohms in the bass, and only dips below 4 ohms in the upper treble. This is a very easy amplifier load, and pretty resistive in the bass range. Note the absence of the wild impedance peaks typical of box speakers in the bass range. The large impedance peak at 1 kHz is presumably due to the crossover network.
The MMG is only sold direct from Magnepan as part of their marketing program. The aim is to popularize the magnetic-planar speaker by introducing it to music lovers have not previously tasted the forbidden fruit of planar speakers. It's an offer Magnepan hopes you can't resist. Check their web site at www.magnepan.com for full details. I've taken the liberty of reproducing excerpts form their web site (in italics) below:
The Offer We Hope You Can't Resist!
Well,.. really how can you? In this day and age of everyone selling you "deals" rather than products, "No money down". "$1500 Cash Back". "No payments until Ted Kennedy is President" (ok,... now there is an offer we'd like to see :-) ... Back to reality,.... Besides Aunt Millie and her 'home shopping network'... who really wants something for nothing? Isn't that what you always end up with in those 'deals', ...nothing?
The Scrolling text at the bottom of the page says it all! Magnepan has taken the 'pain' out of investing in audiophile speakers by offering these wonderful, 'factory direct' MMGs.
Not available through our dealers or beyond the borders of the USA or CANADA, these speakers let you enter the world of Audiophile grade listing, without a commitment of 'your first born'.... actually we are sort of offering you 'our' first born'. We are so sure you'll love these little babies, we have wrapped them in a 60 day money back guarantee! Try them for 60 days, and if you don't like them,.. send them back to us in perfect condition for a full refund! (how many of 'the other guys' offer you that?)... we thought so.... and we're not done yet...
Knowing you may want to upgrade to a pair of bigger and better Magneplanars, we have developed a simple 4 step programme to make it easy as pie to upgrade within' up to one 'year' of your original MMG purchase.
It works like this:
1. Call us at 1-800-474-1646 and tell us of your intentions, ... which model you wish to buy etc. (we might even be able to advise you a little on which model might best suit your needs),.. like the fellow who was going to buy a pair of MG1.5's to use
'one' for a center channel in his home theater,... when the center channel speaker would much better suit his needs.
2. At that time we will commit to a trade in value on your MMG's (depending on the model, we may give you $500 for yours!)
3. Buy the upgrade from your dealer, and then send us your MMG's by UPS or Fed Ex with a proof of purchase, -and-
4. Upon receipt and simple inspection of your MMG's (no the cat didn't get at them etc :-) We'll send you your agreed upon refund.
This has to be one of the best deals going in audio. They don't look, feel, or sound like $500 speakers. The MMG would easily be a safe bet at $1K. At $500/pr, they're a genuine bargain.
Model MMG Specifications:
Type: 2-Way/Quasi-Ribbon Planar-Magnetic
Frequency Response: 50 Hz 24 kHz, +/- 3dB
Amplifier Power: 40-150 W
Sensitivity: 86dB/500Hz /2.83V
Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohm
Dimensions: 14.5 x 48 x 1.25 (inches)
Manufacturer: Magnepan, 1645 Ninth Street, White Bear Lake, MN 55110
Tel.: (612) 426-1645
Fax: (612) 426-0441
2. The Amplifier: The Rotel RA971 Stereo Integrated Amplifier ($599)
The RA971 is just the right stuff to complement the MMG loudspeaker. Here's an integrated solid-state amp with conveniences galore (e.g., multiple source inputs, effective bass and treble tone controls), sufficient juice to drive the MMG to the limit, and most importantly - a musical soul.
Rotel was founded in 1961, and has gone against the grain by remaining a family owned business. Company president and graduate engineer Bob Tachikawa is the son of the founder, and has kept the company focused on the pursuit of hi-fi equipment that is musical, reliable, and affordable. The research and engineering facility is located in Britain, while the main factory is located just north of Hong Kong, China. Rotel engineers are said to be first and foremost, music lovers who labor over their designs like proud parents. They listen to the results, and tweak and adjust the product to meet the team's exacting musical standards. Only then does production begin.
I certainly applaud Rotel's vision of using the human auditory as the final arbiter of quality, and to judge from the performance of the RA 971, they have clearly met their goals. Let me put it as indelicately as I can: most inexpensive solid-state gear is either harsh and aggressive sounding, or bland and canned sounding. You're doomed in the first instance to active annoyance, and in the second, to sonic lobotomy. What is so surprising about the Rotel is the fact that it's so easy to listen to yet is also musically involving.
What you get is a basic black box. That's because all of the good stuff is inside. If you peek through the top of the chassis you'll make out the power supply, which is dominated by a large toroidal power transformer, manufactured by Rotel. The transformer is complemented by slit-foil capacitors made to Rotel specifications. The design concept is to produce a fast, low impedance, power supply with good dynamic capability and damping factor. The supply is highly regulated standard practice for Rotel products. Make no mistake about it: the power supply is the heart of any amplifier. Since the music signal is simply the modulated current from the power supply, one might conclude that the power supply defines an amp's envelope of performance.
The RA971 excels in its fidelity to harmonic color. So many solid-state amps bleach out colors to the point of sounding cool, mechanical, and canned. The Rotel by and large preserves the warmth of midrange textures and delicacy of low-level detail. It's pretty suave sounding all right; not really in the class of vintage tube sound, but a major step forward from the base line of its price point competition. Its distortion spectrum is quite benign, being neither harsh nor bright sounding. Sound staging is another strong point. In the context of the Y2K system, it was able to delineate the spatial perspectives of various recordings quite well. Soundstage width and depth were convincingly defined, while image outlines were tightly focused. I consider this to be a major accomplishment. Even far more expensive solid-state amps fail to flesh out a convincing 3-D spatial perspective, squeezing the air out of each instrument and in general collapsing outlines into nothing more than two-dimensional cutouts. Live recordings were especially delightful with the Rotel in the chain. These, after all, are not surreal soundscapes created in a mixing studio with pan potting and artificial reverb. A live concert gives us a concrete frame of reference for evaluating the acoustic illusion. The Rotel consistently painted a believable and clear spatial impression. It gave that perceptual "window on the soundstage" a good Windex treatment.
The bass range is tight and well delineated. Don't be afraid to play with the tone controls. The bass control provides up to a 6 dB cut or boost below 100 Hz, while the treble control provides a similar level of adjustment above 10 kHz. I found it useful to boost the bass of the MMG by a couple of dB on most recordings.
Within its envelope of current delivery, the Rotel RA971 offers a sympathetic and musical rendering of the music's emotional power. Its natural delivery is a blessing in this day and age of treble excess. It is blissfully free form the bite and/or blandness that afflicts its nearest competition: a real winner under $1K.
Power Output: 60 wpc into 8 ohms; 90 wpc into 4 ohms (0.03% THD)
Frequency Response: 10 Hz 100 kHz, +1 dB/-3 dB
Input Overload Level: 5 volts
Power Consumption: 300 watts
Dimensions (W x H x D): 17-3/8 x 3-5/8 x 13-11/16 inches
Weight (net): 6.5 kg (14.3 pounds)
Manufacturer: Rotel of America, 54 Concord Street, North Reading, MA, 01864-2602
Tel.: (978) 664-3820.
Web site: www.rotel.com
3. The CD Player: The AH! Tjoeb '99 ($475 w/shipping)
I discovered the Tjoeb (Dutch spelling for Tube) during a surfing expedition on the Internet. So now, you too can open your mouth wide and say AH! What is AH!, you ask? It is a brand name that represents a growing group of Dutch products with an exceptional price/performance ratio. The principals in this endeavor are Frank van Duijvenvoorde and Herman van den Dungen. Frank has had an extensive career in the repair and maintenance of high-end gear, and is also an active musician and studio engineer. It is said that he was born with a soldering iron in his hand a promising start for any modifier/tweaker. Herman brings 25 years of high-end experience into the AH! project. He is responsible in the Benelux for the distribution of a wide range of high-end brands, and has creatively contributed to the hi-fi scene for many years.
The buzz on the audioreview.com site was so intense that I decided to give the Tjoeb '99 a personal audition. Herman van den Dungen was a delight to deal with and graciously agreed to send me a unit for review. In general, all sales are direct.
Audiophiles know a bargain when they see it: to date, well over a thousand units have been sold worldwide.
The Tjoeb, in a nutshell, is an extensively modified Marantz CD-38 CD player. I've quoted a complete description of the modifications that go into converting a stock unit into a Tjoeb '99 from AH!'s own web site (www.hifi-notes.com/ahtjoeb99home-en.htm). The original text is more or less intact with just a few editorial corrections:
The Marantz CD-38 uses a standard (low-cost) opamp. This opamp has a lot to do -which in fact is also a part of its problem. It performs three simultaneous functions: acting as an I-V (current voltage) converter, taking care of the filtering, and being the CD-player's output stage. The choice for all this isn't strange as this machine was designed to be very cost-effective. Anyway, this standard opamp is removed and replaced by the best available Burr Brown opamp. In the AH! Tjoeb '99 modification this Burr Brown opamp has an easier life than the standard opamp. The Burr Brown only has to take care of the I-V conversion and of a part of the filtering. The other part of the filtering and the output stage function is handled by an ad-on tube-board. For maximum future flexibility the Burr Brown opamp is not soldered direct to the pc-board, but it is placed in a high-quality IC-socket. This way eventual future upgrades in this part of the circuit can be done by the owner without having to send back the CD-player.
As with most standard CD-players, the Marantz CD-38 uses a transistor-designed muting-circuit. Such circuits have proven to be bad influence on the sound quality. The simplest answer to this is to cut out this muting circuit and leave it afterwards as it is. However, there is always a risk of damaging other parts of the system. This is the reason why we introduced a relay-based muting circuit. This circuit is only "touching" the signal at the moment there is a possible danger. Most of the time the owner will only notice a small mechanical click of the relay at the beginning and the end of the CD and between the different tracks. If you happen to play home-recorded CDR's you might sometimes hear the click in silent parts of the music. This is not a fault of the AH! Tjoeb '99 muting system, but it is a fault in the CDR machine, which recorded a piece of silence as a change of track. As strange as it may sound, this is the case with some versions of Marantz's own DR-700. If you make a digital copy on this machine it should not be possible that a silent part on the original creates a change of track on the copy. However it does. From Marantz (and eventually from us) an EPROM upgrade is available. We charge nothing for this EPROM exchange (what Marantz charges we don't know).
The most obvious and important modification is the adding of the AH! Tjoeb '99 output stage. The output stage with its own dedicated power supply is designed around 2 "old-fashioned" 6922 dual-triode vacuum tubes. The power supply has been optimized for the lowest possible noise and is implemented in a dual symmetric topology for lowest distortion of the single-ended buffer stage. Tjoeb '98 was built with ECC88 Philips 6922 JAN tubes. Later we had to change to our 2nd choice, namely the Sovtek brand. However, in early '99 we have been very lucky again to find a batch of 5000 military grade Philips 6922 Jan tubes, which have a fantastic musical influence on the signal fed through. Due to the way these tubes are used, it is expected that replacement will be required only after 2 or 3 years.
Inside the Marantz CD-38, critical wiring has been replaced with high quality Teflon-insulated signal wire. Wherever it is necessary to solder, this is done with 2% silver solder. The standard RCA output connectors have been replaced with gold plated ones. Our Marantz CD-38 + AH! Tjoeb '99 carries a 12-month warranty. We decided to use a Marantz CD-player for our project because of the recognized sound quality and the proven build-quality. The machine is highly modular, so if ever a problem occurs -and if it is well described we can easily locate the part to be exchanged. The same can be said for the AH! Tjoeb '99 modification. In case of a problem, each party pays its shipping costs, which will be most of the time (affordable) air parcel post.
So just how good is the Tjoeb? It clearly waltzed its way into the Y2K system on the basis on synergy. But on an absolute scale, how would it stack up against much more expensive CD players? To answer that question, I hand-carried the Tjoeb into the Reference Room and substituted it at the head of the chain for my Accuphase Series 90 digital processor and transport. At about $475 (inclusive of shipping costs), the Tjoeb was easily the least expensive link in the system, representing about 2.5% of the cost of the Accuphase gear and being equivalent in cost to only a few feet of my Acrotec high-purity copper interconnect.
Because the Sound Lab A-1 is balanced differently than the Magnepan MMG through the upper octaves, I was expecting hear the Tjoeb in an entirely new light. And in this regard I wasn't disappointed. Certainly, the Tjoeb did not embarrass itself. I was afraid at the outset that the Tjoeb would be so badly outclassed that it would only last several minutes in this ultra high-end context. But that wasn't at all the case. On the contrary, all hell did not break out. If anything, the Tjoeb surprised me with its soundstage clarity and its presentation was consistently exciting. This was in great measure due to a brighter-than-life, hi-fi-ish rendition of harmonic textures. This tinge of brightness was audible on female vocals and overtones of stringed instruments; a perfect counterpoint for the Magnepan MMG, but not right for the Sound Labs. There were also other noticeable artifacts. Soundstage depth was diminished, and there was a reduction in air and space around each instrument. The mids were no longer as suave or as full-bodied as with the Accuphase. On the plus side, however, the bass drive was excellent and the apparent sense of clarity was quite captivating. Image outlines appeared to be "chiseled" within the soundstage. And on many recordings I was effortlessly drawn into the music. Not bad at all for this Dutch treat!
My guess is that you'd have to spend on the order of another kilobuck to find a CD player with comparable resolution and clarity. If mated carefully to a naturally voiced speaker, the Tjoeb will repay you handsomely with much musical enjoyment. A remote control is bundled with the player, and includes as one of its functions remote volume control. This means that the Tjoeb could be run directly into a basic power amplifier and could, in some applications, obviate the need for a line stage.
Of course, some of the savings inherent in the Tjoeb are due to direct marketing and web-based-promotion. But even so, kudos must go to the AH! Team for a clever transformation. It's not often one sees the metamorphosis of a common garden frog into a prince. All considered, Tjoeb '99 represents a fantastic bargain. Spend your newfound savings on new albums, and enjoy the music!
SPECIFICATIONS (Marantz CD-38):
Frequency range: 20Hz-20kHz ± 0.5dB
Dynamic range: 90dB
Channel separation: 90dB
Total harmonic distortion: 0.003%
Transport mechanism: CDM12.3+DSD
D/A conversion: CC DAC
Maximum dimensions (WxHxD): 439 x 88 x 264 mm
Weight (kg): 4.0
4. Speaker Cable and Interconnect
(a) TARA labs Prism 22 Interconnect
I've said it before and I'll say it again: this is the best sounding interconnect under $100! The Prism's overall presentation is tube like: a bit on the soft side of reality and provides this system with a bit of needed upper octave smoothness. I used a 4-meter run between the Tjoeb '99 CD player and the Rotel RA971. Check out their entire product line at: www.taralabs.com
(b) Speaker Cable: 14-gauge solid-core copper
Although our budget leaves us room for a specialty speaker cable, it turns out that a garden-variety solid-core copper conductor is just what the doctor ordered. I bought two 50-foot spools at Home Depot (type THHN insulated wire) for $4.99 ea. That's about 10 cents per foot. The idea here is to add a bit of spice to the MMG's upper midrange, and the "lively' character of the 14-gauge solid-core is sonically equivalent to a tea spoon of hot peppers. The bass response is excellent and the cable sounds quite coherent top-to- bottom. The only negative residual is a slight smearing of treble transients.
Cut four sections of wire to the required length (two red and two white). Strip the ends of each conductor about ½-inch. Do not use spade lugs. Lightly twist each pair of conductors together. Bend the exposed bare wire on one end of the conductors into a semi-circle and wrap the loop around the binding posts of the Rotel RA971. Insert the other end of the conductor directly into the MMG's biding posts. And that's it.
Our grand total of expenditures so far is under $1,700 (sales taxes and shipping charges included). That leaves us room for an accessory such as a line conditioner (to be the topic of a future investigation), or you may wish to spend the remainder on new music albums with which to enjoy your new system. As always: enjoy the music!