Featured Member EscritorJuan: Meaningful Milestones

Creating your ultimate audio system is a process.  You won’t get everything all at once or get the best sound quality immediately.  It takes time to find the right pieces, set up, and tweak.

Audiogon Featured Member, EscritorJuan, began his journey into high-end audio nearly 20 years ago, as he also began his career.  As a result, many components in his system hold a special value to him or their purchases have even commemorated important events in his life throughout the years.  That explains why he was at a loss to pick just one favorite piece when we asked.  Read more below to find out what gear is shown in his room and how he has put it all together.

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Equipment Pictured:

  • Arcam AVP700 AV processor
  • Mark Levinson ML-9 amplifier
  • Martin Logan reQuest speakers
  • Samsung Smart Blu-ray Disc Player
  • Roku streaming player, an Apple iPod dock
  • Sony 5 disc CD changer
  • Technics 1200 turntable
  • Transparent Musicwave speaker cables
  • Panasonic 42″ plasma screen TV

AUDIOGON: Tell us about yourself.

EscritorJuan: I am an educator, freelance writer, and editor of an online boxing site based out of the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

A: How did you get into high-end?

EscritorJuan: I had my first exposure to high-end audio while I was student teaching in 1994.  When visiting a friend, I was startled by the lush sound emanating from his tall pair of Paradigm speakers.  Augmented by a Rotel CD player, preamp and amplifier, his system blew my Bose 301 speakers and receiver combo away!  It wasn’t long before I visited an audiophile shop in Chicago.  Several months later, I picked up a pair of Paradigm bipolar speakers and an Arcam Alpha One CD player.  That was in 1995.  Since then, I’ve bought and sold scads of equipment, including a Naim Nait 1 Integrated amplifier, Naim CDI and a pair of Quad 57 speakers that I loved, but which ultimately didn’t suit my purposes!

 

A: How did you get your room the way it is?  How much did it cost?

EscritorJuan: Our listening room, as the rest of our home, reflects the melding of two households – and the results are quite seamless!  We use the room to entertain and take in music, movies and sports events. We couldn’t have asked for a better setup.

Both previously married, my wife and I had to do some major editing with our furnishings.  Amongst the keepers was the hardwood entertainment center that she’d acquired years ago.  It’s elegant and mirrors our china cabinet in the adjacent dining room (not shown).  Our wedding unity candles, encased in a bronze Malta Lantern from Pottery Barn, sit atop the entertainment center with other treasured nicknacks, reminding us of our priorities.

The ML-9 amplifier was installed with plenty of space between it and the Arcam AVP700 above, as it generates a fair amount of heat.  Moreover, while operating it, I keep the cabinet door open to allow plenty of ventilation.

To maintain audio integrity, I had to place the Martin Logan reQuests partially in front of the entertainment center, as opposed to the sides as we had previously planned; I experimented with speaker placement to get the best sound.  Although I am not entirely satisfied, it’s probably about as good as it will get, given the lay of the room.

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A: Has Audiogon helped you upgrade your system and learn more about audio? How?

EscritorJuan: Very much so!  When I was researching what amp to buy to replace my Lexicon 212 NT amplifier (nice, but not powerful enough for my tastes), I contacted several sellers and auditioned similar units at nearby retailers to decide if I was going to bid on their equipment.  For example, when I was considering a Krell integrated amplifier on sale at Audiogon, I traveled to a store selling a more current version and found the sound a little bright for my tastes.  I also leaned heavily on input from the forums on Audiogon in making my decision.  Had the Mark Levinson ML-9 been offered on Audiogon at the time, I might have purchased it there.  As it was, I ended buying it from a local used equipment store in Chicago.

A: Do you have a favorite component?

EscritorJuan: That’s a tough question.  I really love the reQuests, as my wife paid them off when I had them on layaway as a birthday present (I was selling a pair of Martin Logan Sequels to help pay for that).  In addition to the sentimental value, they sound very detailed and nuanced.  On the other hand, I really treasure my Mark Levinson ML-9 amplifier.  I had always wanted Mark Levinson gear, but thought it was outside my price range.  After careful consideration, I bought the ML-9 as a reward for completing my Masters in Education Leadership program.  Its addition has brought a whole new warmth and punch to the system that I had been longing for.  The Technics 1200 turntable also holds a special place in my heart, as I bought it as part of a pair when I mixed music as a DJ on the side.

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A: What is your favorite music to listen to?

EscritorJuan: Jazz, blues, and rock top my list of favorites.  Favorite artists include Pat Metheny, Kurt Elling, Keith Jarrett, and Eric Clapton.

A: Is there any rule, theory, or advice you abide by with the set up of your system that you’d like to share?

EscritorJuan: Do your research.  In addition to the Audiogon forums, there are loads of online reviews.  If you get a chance, take a look at the owner’s manuals (many are available online simply by doing Google searches).  Also, try to listen to the equipment in person to see if you like it.

Use the best components you can get for the money, including quality cable and interconnects.  This is one reason that most of my gear is used; I get more bang for my buck.

Pay attention to the placement of your speakers; experiment with it, but don’t put them too close to the wall.  The owner’s manual for the reQuests said to keep the speakers at least two feet from the wall.  That’s good advice.

 

Do your components have a story behind them?  What makes your room unique?  Comment below and share your info with us here to become our next Featured Member!

21 thoughts on “Featured Member EscritorJuan: Meaningful Milestones

  1. Ricketysmurf says:

    The coffee table is creating a secondary reflection and would improve the sound tremendously if it were not there. Temporarily moving it to the side whilst listening will improve things significantly.

  2. Thor says:

    One should never take advantage of the professionalism of his local dealers to audition gear that he has NO intention of purchasing from them, re: Krell amp. It’s just deceitful. I am a consumer, not a dealer, but have several friends in the industry. Many local shops have closed their doors due to being “used” like this. Shame on you.

    • honest joe says:

      Really he was just checking equipment out oh and by the way he didn’t say that he wouldn’t have considered buying something from them shame on you for inferring such a decietful behavior ! It sounds like you may have done this in the past yourself.

    • budidjo says:

      A good deler will not expect anyone who come to their door to buy. Instead they will give good advise how to match the equipment with the rest of the system.

    • Futilitarian says:

      I understand Thor’s point. I also disagree with Honest Joe below. It does sound to me as if Escritor Juan may have “used” a dealer. Having been in sales (non-audio) myself, it is a fact of life that some consumers will use you for your time, knowledge and skill and then buy somewhere else. It’s just human nature. The down side is that it costs the salesperson and the business. The advent of the internet has only exacerbated this seeming flaw in human nature. We have lost or reduced our ability to have relationships. The upside is that sometimes the consumer receives such exemplary customer service from a brick and mortar dealer which they weren’t expecting and they realize that they have stumbled onto a wealth of knowledge, skill and experience that is very valuable. Sometimes, this actually encourages a bond to form. This is when a “consumer” becomes a “customer”. I used to shop high-end stores with a friend of mine all over the north-east. We were treated well in some establishments, humored in others and shunned in a few. We entered a store in Jersey, seemingly a ‘hole in the wall’. After a quick self-guided tour around the ‘showroom’, we were headed back out the door when the proprietor called to us, “where ya headed guys?” “Let me buy ya a soda, I want ya to listen to something,” he offered earnestly. We followed him into the back room, which, at the time was cluttered and dingy. We had no idea what we were about to experience. He simply talked to us and played music for us. He never tried to “sell” us anything. He let our ears draw us in. He knew how to get the most from any component and he knew of the synergy between components. He loved sharing music and his knowledge and it eventually became apparent that he had much more equipment to offer than would fit in the small store we entered. I returned many times to audition and purchase equipment. He not only taught me about high-end audio, but he also taught me about how to offer excellent customer service and how to create customer loyalty which later aided me in making a living in sales. My friend on the other hand, became more of an internet shopper and rarely, if ever, supported a ‘brick and mortar’ dealer. He did however, start buying and selling a good amount of used gear over the internet. One must consider that even this activity frees up dollars and equipment real estate in homes from which brick and mortar dealers might benefit. Finally, I’ll mention the name of the dealer in the hope that Audiogon won’t see a need to edit as this is indeed NOT a conspired attempt to gain free advertising for anyone. It is simply high-end audio done right. The dealer is Audio Connection in Verona, New Jersey.

      • Sharad says:

        Futilitarian ,

        Halfway I was reading about your very pleasant experience with a New Jersey dealer , I could name him ! I thought that must be John Rutan of Audio Connection , at Verona NJ. ! And yes , I was right .

        I have met him twice , once at his Showroom and once at NY Audio Show (2005 ) at NY. He left very similar impressions on me as on you. I went to his store in around 2003 , and not for buying but just for seeing and listening hi end gears . I told him so , and he said no problem , just asked to wait till he got done with some other customer. Then he took me and my friend to his next door store and made us listen some jazz and Eric Clepton on Cary Audio Amp , PreAmp , and
        Vandersteen Model 5A speakers. I had then recently started to build my system . I was blown away by the sound of Jazz which is still in my memory .

        John is a great guy , very unassuming and helpful.

      • Futilitarian says:

        Sharad, I smiled that you could recognize John at Audio Connection (and staff) halfway through my lengthy post. But, why should I be surprised? I hope that anyone that has a high-end audio/home theater need will stop in and support this store if at all possible. It is truly an oasis which continues to survive in an internet world!

    • Scott says:

      I was really enjoying this guy’s write-up until you added your negative comment. Do you think everyone that enters a high dollar product showroom should automatically buy? It is most certainly NOT deceitful to go to a shop to gain knowledge and to audition a product, especially audio equipment.

    • I was surprised at your response, Thor. I have spent literally thousands of dollars buying and selling equipment through the years and most of it at local dealers — Pro Musica, Al’s Stereo, Audio Consultants, and Saturday Audio Exchange, to name a few. And, as an educated but fair consumer, I try to find the best deals for myself.

      Be that as it may, the place where I viewed the Krell integrated Amp was ABT, a HUGE store that sells high volume. They certainly were not hurting for sales. And, had they offered their unit at or near the price that Audiogon was offering, I probably would have gone with theirs, especially with their warranty and all. I actually asked them what the best deal was that they would be willing to sell me their unit. However, theirs was selling at a price point well above what I was wiling to spend. The way I look at it, buying hifi equipment can be like buying a car. Sure, you may develop a certain degree of loyalty to certain sellers, but you still shop around.

      For what it’s worth…

  3. palmharbor says:

    I have Martin Logans too and I love the sound BUT, they are fussy..sometimes for no good reason, the blue light goes out tell me the sound is dead. I have to turn off the power amp…unplug the AC unit…wait ten seconds, plug it back in, then turn on the power amp again. If there is no program source running…putting out audio…the lights are out on the Martin Logans. It took me time to find out what was happening and Martin Logan does not disclose this information. Too often owners manuals are
    poorly written at best no matter the cost of the component and I am sick of it.

  4. Dealer101 says:

    A good dealer welcomes everyone. A customer will remember friendly service and will return to buy when finances allow. And by the way, I’ve owned a successful high end stereo shop for 22 years, and I would never refuse to show anything to anyone.

  5. invenio78 says:

    Nice setup. I enjoyed reading the article. I like how you seem to have a personal connection to the equipment. It also seems that you have put a lot of thought, preparation, and time into acquiring the components you have.

    I use a pair of Martin Logan Vantage speakers and love the electrostat sound. I am a little surprised that you went with planar speakers in that room, however. I find that planars are the most finicky in terms of positioning. They LOVE space. I have mine about 5 feet off the back wall and even more off the side (my room is close to 25 ft in length and width). You may want to experiment with pulling them much further out. I think the limited width of the room is probably the greatest challenge in getting the best sound from your setup. These are not criticisms, just observations I have had with my Martin Logans.

    • Hi invenio78,

      Thanks. You’re absolutely right about the width of the room being the biggest challenge. The placement is about as good as it will get, give or take a few inches, given the seating and all.

      Coincidentally, the Mark Levinson amp is in the shop, as the power switch is no longer lighting up when in the “on” position and it’s under warranty. So, they’re fixing it, as well as a small capacitor or two that was found to be leaking when it went back. I am missing it terribly, as we are only using the flat screen TV for sound when we’re watching a movie or show. I am having withdrawals!

      Cheers,

      Juan

  6. yogacraig says:

    Any chance this is the Juan I used to know in the 90’s when you were a quad owner and I saw in the library a few months ago? Nice system and place to enjoy them, whether we’ve met or not. Peace.

    • Hi Craig,

      Yes, it is me, Juan. I still remember your pointing out the Quads in the Chicago Reader at the Blind Faith Cafe before I bought them. How are you?

      Thanks for the complement! I remarried in July 23rd, 2011. I had met my wife, Belle, back in 2004 in church when she was going through a divorce (but didn’t pursue her then) and reconnected with her in February 2010, when we started dating. We both sold our places and bought this home the month before we married; I moved in after the wedding (I had moved in with my mom after I sold my home).

      I would love to talk with you sometime. Look me up on Facebook, where my name is Escritor Juan .

      Cheers,

      Juan

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