My systems revisited – 6 months on

It’s just about six months this since I acquired my Mycetias Audio speakers, completing my esoteric system, alongside my Auralic Polaris streaming amplifier. It seems about time to take stock of the impact of the systems on my listening habits, and other aspects of my hobby.

The first thing to note is that I have lost all interest in upgrading my system. After six months, I am still in that phase where I play an album for the first time on this system and enjoy hearing new details of the recording. This “honeymoon period” has never lasted as long with any previous system upgrade.

The second change in my behaviour is that the difference between my esoteric system and my other systems is such that I don’t bother listening to my other systems except for background music, or to improve the sound when watching television or films. An honourable exception is the use of my 5.1 system to play some of my progressive rock from the 1970s and 1980s. Whilst more limited in terms of frequency response rhythm and timing, the multichannel presentation of The Dark Side of the Moon or Tubular Bells is sufficiently differed impressive to tempt me on occasions.

Another observation of my habits is that if I want background music whilst reading a book, I tend to avoid the esoteric system and revert to the Naim/Rega system. My esoteric system is simply too intrusive, and I find myself distracted from my reading.

This has led me to speculate whether to try swapping my Rega speakers for my KEF 300AX speakers in order to provide a clearer midrange for TV dialogue. The KEFs, a predecessor of the popular LSX and Active LS50 ranges have been used in my study on the end of my Apple Mac, but are a bit much in my 2m by 2m study. Being active, they require a different wiring arrangement to run from the preamp of the Naim Unitiqute, and this would be slightly disruptive to the current arrangement where the wires are neatly hidden but I imagine that I will try this no-cost experiment in the near future, and deal with the cosmetics if necessary.

Most of my listening is in streaming mode, and I find myself listening primarily to streamed music from Qobuz rather than my locally stored rips. Part of this is the convenience of the wide catalogue, but the rendering of the Qobuz produces a sound quality which matches or exceeds that of my own files. There are an increasing number of back catalogue tracks available in better-than-CD resolution.

One enjoyable feature of the Auralic Polaris is that unlike the Naim Unitiqute platform which has not been updated since the arrival of the current range, the software at the heart of the Lighting DS system continues to be updated in a manner which may be applied to older models. Version 7.0 which arrived in December 2021 introduces the option of Amazon streaming. This, in conjunction with a 3-month free trial from Amazon provides for further free experimentation. In February, I will have to decide whether I really need both streaming services, but for now it is an opportunity to play and experiment.

This sense that the system is not static but allows for new exploration and experimentation usually at no additional cost, adds greatly to the sense of enjoyment from my hobby, and reduces the urge to explore expensive upgrade options.

Currently, the upgrade options are quite limited. Nick Stephenson in his interview tantalisingly talks about bigger speakers which may become available in 2022, and I doubt I shall be able to resist at least a listen. On the electronics side, any upgrade would likely be prohibitively expensive. The more recent and potentially superior Auralic models require separate amplification which adds to the cost and the box count.

So, for now, it’s back to listening and enjoying an increasingly diverse range of music.

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