There are no such things as the perfect converter, perfect amplification, and perfect monitors. There is a certain high level of accuracy required in the whole mastering monitoring situation – which includes the room as much as the equipment in it – but beyond that a great deal hangs on taste and preference, perhaps on dominant genre too, and certainly on expectations.
As I noted in a previous post, in the very early days of the business the monitoring chain was my Hong Kong hi-fi: Mark Levinson DAC, Mark Levinson or VTL amplification, and Wilson-Benesch speakers. By the time of the move back to the UK this had changed a bit, e.g. with the addition of dCS conversion and a Nagra pre-amp; and by the time PBM came fully into being this had changed even further with ATC SCM 50A active speakers instead of the WB and external amplification. The final change, which brought us to the present set-up, was replacing the tiny-tubed Swiss Nagra pre-amp with the large tubed Italian Viva LF1.
The motivation for each change was the felt need for a more accurate presentation of the kind demanded by the nature of the music we were working with. Given the extended tonal and timbral and dynamic range of classical music, we then assumed that if it worked for classical, then it would work for most other genres, and we’ve rarely been given any cause to question this. In that regard, the ATC were a definite step-up from the Wilson-Benesch; the internal ATC amps a definite step-up from the external Mark Levinson; and the Viva a definite set-up from the Nagra. Each change brought the overall presentation closer to what we needed, and the move to the new room seemed to be the final piece of the puzzle: allowing us to hear much more of what the equipment was providing, which was more of what we wanted to hear than any previous incarnation of the chain. Read More »