Lee's audacious high-end audio system blows the doors off

In this edition of Show Us Yours, we get a look at a crazy audio setup from a sound-obsessed audiophile who makes his own high-resolution recordings.

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
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Lee's system

Welcome to Lee's listening room, in his home in Atlanta. He's been building up this serious collection of kit for a long time -- he needs it to get the most out of his epic music collection, which is currently around 3,000 LPs and 5,000 CDs. He just recently stepped up to these mighty Wilson Audio Alexia 2 speakers!

Read more from The Audiophiliac here.

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Abby and Lee

Abby enjoys the sound just as much as Lee.

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Lee likes Audio Research electronics

Lee's VPI turntable is hooked up to this Audio Research Reference Phono 2 preamp. Lee says it's a great piece that really does a fine job.

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Vintage Sony SACD player

This is the piece that started Lee's SACD journey. It's an early Sony SCD-777ES, circa 2000. This 65-pound (30 kg) beast has been a warhorse for Lee and it still plays perfectly. It's a top-loader and after 18 years, it's still fun to place a silver disc on the transport and watch the door close.

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Snazzy line preamplifier

This Audio Research Reference 5 SE is a very transparent line stage preamp. Lee uses the balanced inputs and outputs for best effect.    

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The PS Audio stack

Lee's recent acquisition of the PS Audio DirectStream "stack" runs the Memory Player and DirectStream DAC. "What's really cool about PS Audio," Lee says, "is that they use an FPGA chip and provide new software for both pieces every six to nine months or so, so the darn thing never goes out of date." There's also a network bridge that allows Lee to plug into hi-res streaming service Tidal and music-management software Roon from his router.

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Headphone monitoring

"I really like the planar magnetic sound of the Audeze cans," Lee says, "and this is the LCD-2C, a reissue of their original LCD-2. It's got a wonderful, warm sound." 

The headphones are sitting atop the Mytek Brooklyn+ digital converter/headphone amp. 

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Powerhouse amplifier

This is an Audio Research VT-100 Mk.1 amp. Lee's buddy Robert Cunningham, a superb tube tech, greatly elevated the performance and it's a surprisingly good match for the Wilson Alexia speakers. Still, this is the oldest piece in Lee's system and will likely be replaced in the not-too-distant future.    

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Feel the glow

Here's a view of the tube glow from the amp's KT-120s and 6922s.

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One tube preamp

Lee's Schiit Saga tube preamp is a terrific bargain at $349.

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Blue light

Powering all of this electronic gear is this Synergistic Research PowerCell 12 SE power conditioner. The blue light isn't Photoshop trickery, that's the way it looks. Lee says the conditioner made a big difference in the sound of the system.

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Vinyl rules

"My VPI Scoutmaster turntable has been terrific," Lee says. "I am currently considering an upgrade but this table sounds really great. I use a Furutech Silver Arrow II for a phono cable."

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Groover tracer

"Here is a close-up of the Soundsmith Paua Mk 2 cartridge. Very musical but highly resolving, it works well with my VPI JMW9 tonearm."    

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Lee's LPs

"Finally, it's all about the music, and I am a huge fan of Rudy Van Gelder's Blue Note recordings," Lee says. "I collected all of the Music Matters reissues of Blue Notes and quite a bit of the Analogue Productions Prestige series. They are both superb and really enhanced my appreciation of jazz that developed from my attending jazz clubs in the Village when I lived in New York."

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Spin doctor

What LP fan would not have a record-cleaning machine? This VPI 16.5 has been a workhorse for Lee.

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Lee cues up a record

Lee loves his vinyl, but he's also deep into digital.

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Standing tall

The Wilson Audio Alexia 2 speakers.

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Lee goes for performance-enhancing 'tweaks'

These thimble-size HFT devices by Synergistic Research improve the already fantastic sound of his Alexia 2 speakers, Lee says. He's a bit of a tweak these days, but anything that helps things sound better is alright with Lee.

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A shot across the system

It's hard to imagine a better selection of gear. 

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Alexia 2's rear end

The back of the Alexia 2 speaker. It has adjustments to dial in perfect "time coherence" for the listener's ears.

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So many cables!

A complex high-end system like this one has a lot of cables. In there are Synergistic Atmosphere Level 4 cables, along with some Synergistic Galileo digital cables.

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Lee and Nick

"This is a selfie of me and my friend Nick at one of our recording sessions," Lee says. "I am a fan of using Grado PS500 headphones in sessions even though they are open-backs, because they're so neutral. Nick and I both like the way they capture the sessions."

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Compact digital recorder

"This is one of our recording devices, a Sound Design 722. We like its battery-powered convenience as we run into a lot of bad AC power in churches, where we record a lot."

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Mics at a recording session

This was the mic setup for an orchestra playing in an A-frame church. They are AKG 414-B-ULS mics. "I enjoy working on classical and jazz recordings here in my hometown of Atlanta," Lee says, "mostly live to two track in hi-res PCM and DSD digital."        

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Lee's desktop system

Lee's home desktop system with Wilson Audio TuneTot speakers and Schiit electronics.

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Reel-to-reel tapes

Lee has a small prerecorded reel-to-reel tape collection. Most of these have excellent sound.

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Revox A77 tape machine

"This is a fun and relatively new piece, a Revox A77 tape machine that plays 3 3/4- and 7.5-inch per second tapes," Lee says. "I'm dipping my toe into the reel-to-reel world and I like what I'm hearing."

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Jimi Hendrix

"This is artwork by local vinyl record collector and friend Tim Caerbert, a wonderful graphic designer." Lee says. "I have two pieces from him in the music area as well as one in my music storage closet."

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One last look at Lee's listening room

Those listening chairs look awfully inviting! Thanks for taking the tour of Lee's music system.

If you want to see more Show Us Yours showcases, we have plenty more here.

And please submit your photos here if you want your home audio or video setup featured on CNET. 

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