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47 Laboratory 4706 Gaincard Integrated Amplifier & Omega Minuet Bookshelf Speaker Review

Sandy Greene experimented with the $4,000 47 Lab/Omega system.

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47 Laboratory 4706 Gaincard integrated amplifierOmega Minuet loudspeaker

Listening to music is my therapy. At my home in Philly, with my wife and kids, sharing music is a joy. When I come home from work, the first thing I do is turn on the stereo and play an album (album not necessarily referring to vinyl). My wife is always interested in my choice of music and I know she can read my mood by it.

There are many shades to my moods. On the “rough”–day side, the tunes could swing into something aggressive or I may need to chill. On the “great”-days, the music might be something happy and upbeat, or a trip down memory lane that reminds me of bygone days. My aural mood ring if you will.

My hi-fi setup in Philly has been assembled to share (Rogue Audio tubed amplification with Meadowlark Kestrel II speakers. See Eastern Electric Minimax CD player review for complete system). The room is right next to the entrance of the house and the stairs that go to the 2nd and 3rd floor. The music greets guests and travels up the stairs and fills the home with music.

It is a pleasant sounding system…warm and inviting. It communicates just as well at low volumes, a background vibe-enhancer, as it does at rockin’ levels as an outright boogie machine! I would say the system is as much a member of the family as the rest of us… (Can he be serious? Perhaps there are a few audiophiles with families who will know exactly what I mean.)

Now, this is a system review. Not of my Philly system, but of my Brooklyn system. (Philadelphia is about 100 miles away from Brooklyn…1.5 hours on Amtrak, 1.5 hrs by car.)

Half the week I am up in NYC for work, without my wife and kids, so my small apartment in Brooklyn had been mostly a crash-pad. Now it feels more like a home away from home. Why? Because for the past few months, I have had a wonderful little system keeping me company. This system consists of a 47 Lab Gaincard (25 watt), a pair of Omega Minuet speakers and my trusty Eastern Electric Minimax CD player that I reviewed in June, 2005.

The 47 Lab/Omega system is like a new member of my family… more like a visiting relative, I guess.

My apartment is minimally furnished and the minimally designed system feels right at home. The living/dining room is on the long side, and is open and loft-like with dimensions of approximately 15’x 45’ x 9’. The system is set up on the 15’ wall, with the Minuets on 28” stands, about 4’ from the side walls and in front of my two draped front windows which sit in small bays, so the speakers sit about 1’ from the front wall but right against the curtains. They’re toed-in slight to pretty much point at my head about 12’ back from the system. The interconnects from the CD player to the Gaincard are my fav, Van Den Hul D-12 III Hybrid’s. The speaker cables are solid core copper pulled from an ethernet cable, courtesy of my friend Matt.

When I come home from work in NYC, the ritual is pretty much the same as it is in Philly. First thing I do is turn on the system…followed by a quick change of clothes (OK, too much detail). Anyway, let’s just say, within a short time, I am comfortably seated on my couch with a beer and a great CD is playing. Now, this is a small apartment and I am only playing the music for myself, so the volume is pretty much the sane/same (medium-low) every day. I’m not having conversation nor am I rockin’ the house (the neighbors, on one side a former head of security for former Mayor John Lindsay, would kill me).

Now, in some rare occasions, if I play my cards right, if the tunes are appropriate and the mood is matching, the music just NEEDS to be played louder to release some of that pent-up energy from a certain kind of day at the office, if ya know what I mean.

Keeping the volume pretty much the same for days-on-end is a good thing with the 47 Lab’s Gaincard. You’ve read about this in many reviews so I won’t delve. The Gaincard is dual mono with a volume control for each channel. The volume controls are stepped, so each turn is regulated with a click with quite a jump in volume level in between each click. It makes for easy matching of channel-to-channel balance. For me, in my very solo relationship with the Gaincard, this is fine. I have had no desire for remote control…it’s more like set-and-forget volume. My Minimax CD player has a mute (along with Pause of course) on its remote…so all is cool if the phone or doorbell should ring.

My relationship with the system is very direct. The system is very honest in its portrayal of the music it plays. It draws you into the music and makes it worth your while. You need to sit up straight and pay attention to hear all the details. I’m being pretty literal here… The Omega Minuets are very focused and have a very tight and specific sweet spot. Proper toe-in is essential to achieve great 3-dimensionality, but proper height is even more critical.

Louis Chochos, the President of Omega informed me that I would want to get my ear level to be between the two identical drivers that make up each Minuet speaker. It’s absolutely critical. You stand up, the sound changes; you slouch on the couch and the sound changes. The sound becomes more diffuse, flatter and less airy as you move out of the vertical sweet spot. Horizontally it is sensitive as well, but not so much in the color of the sound as in the dimensionality and space.

But when you get in right there, right in the sweet spot and you have the toe-in right, the sound is truly realistic and emotionally involving. These little speakers (15” tall x 7.5” wide x 12” deep) put out amazing low-end. I couldn’t believe it when I first heard it. On some systems, it can often be quite difficult to hear the acoustic bass on jazz trio recordings, so I expected to hear very little just by looking at the Minuets, and I have been pleasantly surprised. These guys also give good weight on acoustic piano, and the timbre they project is very accurate…I mean the acoustic piano really sounds like it should. I have often found this another-tough thing to get right on other systems. Some of the Jazz CD’s in recent rotation have been:

Oscar Peterson,
The Sound of the Trio,
(Polygram Records,
Catalog: #543321) Horace Silver,
Song for my Father
(Blue Note Records,
Catalog: #84185)

When I am in my living room and these albums are playing, I am transported to the recording space or the live venue…it is that realistic!

This system can also dance! My wife might be jealous…she was also entranced by this system. The new Gorillaz album is in da haus and it’s sounding awesome. The combo that is this system, the Minimax, the Gaincard and the Minuets, can deliver terrific low end and fabulous rhythm. There’s some real booty shakin’ tunes on the new Gorillaz album, Demon Days (Virgin Records, ASIN: B00082IJ08). The song, “Fell Good Inc.”, had me teaching the whole family to “Raise the roof” (you know…arms bent 90 degrees at the elbows, elbows out in front of your body, hands open flat and pushing up the “roof”.) Seriously though, this song has a kick drum and bass line that really get the boogie goin’, and this system delivers those goods with surprising bass, real texture and exciting pace.

As a whole though, this system gives a very personal experience. As I mentioned before, it’s really for solo listening and not for entertaining. But when you are deep in conversation, it’s really rewarding. You can really hear deep into the music, and I bet the Gaincard has a lot to do with that. I’ve read all the reviews on the Gaincard (even the one written by our editor, Constantine Soo) and I agree with them all: pure, direct, insightful, grain-free, solid, soulful (in that it allows you to hear deep into the soul of the music, what the musicians are even thinking and feeling perhaps), spiritual, rhythmic, tight, dynamic, emotional, meticulous, potent.

Do you have some friends you love to have deep conversations with? They’re smart, funny, wise, aware, direct, no B.S. That’s the kind of “conversations” I have with this system, and from reading all those past reviews of the Gaincard, I bet a lot of this system’s sound is attributable to it. But I also feel that the Minuets help achieve that very positive experience. I had the Minuets hooked up to my Rogue system in Philly, and I felt the Minuets did a great job of revealing the personality of each of these very different amplification systems.

For me, an overly detailed source would have prevented me from truly enjoying my time with this system. It was great to have my Eastern Electric Minimax CD player in the mix. I felt its tubed output gave just that tiny bit of tube richness and air that allowed the whole system to speak to me in a more refined and approachable manner. It was never too aggressive, although it would certainly give you its own opinion in its own special, direct way; but it never drove you away.

Let me talk briefly about the “fashion sense” of this system: clean, simple, and tasteful…especially the Gaincard and the Minuets. Quite a synergy, actually. Dagogo’s readers would be familiar with the aesthetics of the Gaincard. Its chassis is well crafted, simplistic and aesthetically clean, with a real quality feel to the materials. The Omega Minuets are beautiful and simple; the boxes are finished in a wonderful, rich and, obviously, grained teak veneer. The edges are routed to reveal the lighter wood underneath. It’s a classy effect. The drivers are very neat looking with a pattern in the cone and a metal phase plug. Even the grills are magnetic, so when off, no ugly holes in the front baffle. The rear has a single pair of binding posts and a bass reflex port. By the way, I actually prefer the look without the grills, but prefer the sound with them on, rendering the highest highs just so slightly tamed. I prefer that sound.

I’ve really enjoyed my time with this system. Physically, it is perfectly appropriate: small, unobtrusive, understated and sophisticated. Sonically it is very similar: contained, tight, direct and insightful…but most importantly, it’s also very involving and welcoming. It really draws you into the music. Get it set up right (mostly through speaker positioning) and you can get enveloped in the soundscape, but more importantly completely brought into the music, so much so that you can close your eyes and become completely removed from your actual surroundings and transported deep into the meaning and the venue of the music. It’s just the perfect antidote, and a complement to a sometimes hectic and sometimes perfect workday.

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