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A Second Visit to the Home of the Infamous Encinitas Jim

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Rather than retracing ground previously covered in “A Visit to the Home of the Infamous Encinitas Jim” (Dagogo, April 2014), I refer you to that original article. Subsequent to my initial listening sessions in January 2014, there have been three changes to the system, which, in combination, have had an almost transformative effect on the sound. These changes are as follows: 1) significant revisions to the Acapella La Musika Integrated amp (Acapella Integrated), 2) installation of the pair of Marten Coltrane Supreme 2 speakers (Marten S-2) shown at CES in January, and 3) purchase of a pair of the David Berning 211/845 OTL amps (Berning 211). Normally, I would be somewhat reluctant to comment on any piece of equipment in a system other than my own. In this instance, my familiarity with the Acapella Triolons, the Jorma Prime and Nordost Odin interconnect and speaker cables, and the Einstein preamp (all of which I own) and the EMM Labs XDS1 SACD Player (which I previously owned) in conjunction with an extended audition (nine days), hopefully provide enough reference points that I have a firm basis for forming a credible opinion. While the music was varied, it included the following:

Acapella Triolons

Acapella Triolons with “flaming” red horns, ii) the Berning 211/ 845 amps on the outsides, iii) Acapella La Musika Integrated amp in the center, iv) HRS equipment stand, v) Einstein preamp (top shelf, left side, vi) Ypsilon phono stage under the Einstein, vii) Kuzma Reference 4 Motor Turntable, and viii) EMM Labs XDS1 SACD player underneath. Cables are Jorma Prime.

Digital

Beethoven, Piano Concerto #4 (Gina Bachauer), Mercury Living Presence 432 018-2

Liszt, Piano Concerto #1/ St. Saens Piano Concerto #2 (Rubenstein), RCA Living Stereo

Dubois, Sept Paroles Du Christ, Fidelis FACD 008

Catalani, La Wally, Diva Movie Soundtrack, Sony UK/Zoom B00000IHGU

John Rutter Requiem (Turtle Creek Choir), Reference Recordings RR-57CD

Beethoven, Piano Concerto #4 (Bronfman/ Zinman), Arte Nova Classics DDD, ANO 640100

Beethoven, Choral Fantasy/ Piano Concerto #5 (Bronfman/ Zinman), Arte Nova Classics DDD, ANO 825850

Falla, Three Cornered Hat (Decca SXL 2296) SHM-SACD Japan UCGD 9028 480 5870

American Beauty Soundtrack, Dreamworks 450233

Puccini, Tosca, conducted by Colin Davis Pentatone 2 SACD set, PTC 5186 147

Juerga, Manitas de Plata, Connoisseur Society CD4126 30CD-3004 (1963, his 1st recording)

Celibidache, French and Russian Music EMI 085 6062

Julius Lester, Dressed Like Freedom, Vanguard CDBGPD 175

Led Zepplin Remastered, Atlantic 7567-80415-2

Albeniz, Suite Espanola XRCD 24 FIM XR24068

Rickie Lee Jones, Traffic from Paradise, Analogue Productions SACD 80016858 05

Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms 20th Anniversary Edition, Super Analogue CD 9871498

Oistrakh, Mozart Sinfonia Concertante, 96 KZ 24 bit, Decca 470 258-2

Analogue

Rickie Lee Jones, Traffic from Paradise, Warner Brothers BSK 3196

Chabrier, Espana/ Danse Slav (Paray/Detroit), Mercury Living Presence SR 90212 (RFR-1/ RFR-1)

Beethoven, IX Sinfonie/ Egmont Overture (Fricsay/ Berlin Philharmonic), DGG 138002/003 SLPM

Liszt, Mazeppa/ Hungarische Fantasy (Cherkassky/ Berlin Philharmonic), DGG 138692 SLPM (large tulip, Red Label)

Great Piano Masterpieces (Tamas Vasary and others) DGG 644102 (tulip)

Liszt, Piano Concerto #1 (Tamas Vasary) DGG 138055 SLPM (Red Stereo Label)

The Equipment

Berning 211/ 845 OTL Amps ($73,500) (exclusively available at Hi Fi One)

Berning 211 and Acapella Integrated

(Berning 211 and Acapella Integrated) In detail one can also see the 220 volt outlet driving the Acapella aand details even on the Jorma prime cable

Many of you will be aware of Dave Berning and his previous efforts including the well-reviewed Quadrature amplifier, which in many ways set a standard for what could be achieved with an output transformer-less amplifier. The Berning 211 is to some extent the child of that amp. Like many of our children, it builds upon and far exceeds the strengths of the parent. The Berning is fully self-biasing and can use either a 211 or an 845 output tube without any changes or switching. It is equipped with a slow start feature that significantly extends the life of the output tubes and guarantees safe operation. If a tube will not come up to proper bias, the amp does not engage the faulty tube. Likewise the amp has three choices for operation: Standby, Conserve and Full power. At full power, the amp produces 60 watts regardless of load and has constant output impedance over the entire audio spectrum. The noise floor is sufficiently low for use with highly efficient speakers. The amp is differentially balanced with zero negative feedback. Another element of the design is the use of a rather ingenious switch mode power supply with full Power Factor Correction that allows the amps to run on 110 or 220 without internal modification. The chassis is by design light to avoid energy storage and uses a combination of Stillpoint circuit board isolators and their Ultra 5’s and Ultra Bases to isolate the internal circuitry from vibration. Thus, this is pretty much a plug and play set of amplifiers, except for the provision of a power cord.

Berning 211/ 845 OTL Amps

Berning 211/ 845 OTL Amps

Berning 211/ 845 OTL Amps

Berning 211/ 845 OTL Amps

8 Responses to A Second Visit to the Home of the Infamous Encinitas Jim


  1. Wayne says:

    Why is Jim referred to as infamous? That adjective is typically used to describe someone notorious or disreputable. From both articles, seems like Jim is a good guy (with some serious high-end gear) so just wondering in what way he is infamous?

  2. Brian Walsh says:

    Small clarification. The turntable system is a Kuzma Stabi XL4 turntable with Kuzma Air Line and 4Point tonearms.

    Note to Wayne: You are correct, Jim is a very good guy and a serious music lover who enjoys the pursuit.

  3. Rudolf de Vries says:

    I found two comments particular intriguing so is it possible to elaborate somewhat more on these aspects:
    – The CS-2 is in contrast to the CS-1 not suitable for low powered tube amps. Does this eg imply that your Audio Note UK amps will not be a goid match for the CS-2? What minimum power would you recommend for the CS-2.
    – The anomaly you described with regard to the CS-2. Could you please comment on this point in somewhat more detail?

    Thanks and best regards

  4. Sam Lucero says:

    Hi Fred,

    I’m happy you eluded the Houston heat and humidity with a visit to San Diego.
    Jim had mentioned to me that you were friends. He is certainly a magnanimous host!
    Speaking of which, allow me to say, Thank You, for hosting me upon my Texas Tour of Audiophile Homes :-)

    Best regards,
    Sam

  5. fred crowder says:

    Rudolph,

    There are several dsadvantages to listening to equipment at someone else’s home, including but not limited to lack of familiarity with the room acoustics and inability to use your own equipment in the listening sessions. I wish that I had been able to try my Balanced Kegons on the CS-2. While I never thought that they would be the answer on the Triolons (93 db efficiency, complex impedance, 4 SEAS woofers per speaker), they have been an excellent match. Likewise the 60 watt per channel Berning 845/ 211 was superb. The manufacturer clearly prefers that the speakers be driven by higher powered amps. I certainly would not try using anything with less power than the Kegons. With respect to the frequency related anomalies, ideally, dynamic range should not be frequency dependent. I can remember hearing a Levinson HQD system at a CES in Chicago. Seated at a proper distance from the rather large, multi-driver system, I thought that they were stunning at times; however, the 24″ Hartley woofers always seemed to get loud faster than the double Quads which called attention to the low frequencies. At any given volume, you could adjust the sensitivity of the system to get a coherent match; however, as the volume changed, you began to hear discontinuities among the drivers. In retrospect, part of what I was hearing may well have been related to the room rather than the speakers. In any event, certain frequencies played at certain volumes called attention to themselves. For the most part, it worked in service of the music.

  6. Rudolf de Vries says:

    Thank you very much for your quick reply.

  7. Josef says:

    Hi fred,

    could you please explain why the marten m2 mono amp sound so bad? Anything wrong with this amps?

    Best regards,

    Josef

  8. Fred Crowder says:

    The Marten amps under the right circumstances can sound very good, but they need a very lengthy warm up period (at least a week of being left on 24 hours a day with signal running through them) and they are very sensitive to the power cord used. We assumed that the top of the line Jorma Prime would be a nice match, but later found out that the half price Jorma Origo was the right choice. With these two changes, the Marten amps were very good particularly on the Marten Momento ($165K) speakers. I still prefer either the Acapella or Berning 211 amps on the Marten Supreme 2 speakers which are so highly resolving that they show flaws in lesser amps.

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