A Music Lover's Impressive Home Theater


Klaas Jan Guchelaar loves music. So much so that he's found a career as a concert photographer in the Netherlands. When he's not snapping priceless moments at Living Colour concerts he's sitting back in his living room and soaking up the sounds from a very impressive DIY theater...

Klaas gives Unplggd the breakdown:

The TV is a 42” Panasonic TH-42PV70 plasma, great images but only HDtv ready. I wanted a plasma screen when I moved into my current house, the old CRT was just too big and did not fit the sleek design look I was after.

For DVD’s I use a Denon DVD-1940 DVD player, that also plays Audio-DVD and Super Audio CD. When watching movies, I use a Cambridge Audio Azur 540R v2.0 amplifier for my surround sound. The reason for this is that it was the only amplifier I could find that is only 10 centimeters high, the rest were around 15 to 17 cm and that would not fit well in the audio cupboard (the white cupboard you see in the photo). To be honest it isn’t used much now, only for the centre speaker. I’m not much interested in the big bass sound of a subwoofer and currently also my rear surround speakers are not connected.

Both that amplifier and the Denon DVD player are in the left side of the cupboard, behind the door. On top of that cupboard is the side of my setup that is used for audio. The heart of it all is my Prima Luna Prologue One valve amplifier. It has four inputs and only stereo output (so no surround and such). Prima Luna is a Dutch brand valve player, produced in China and features a ‘hanging construction’ . That is, the components are not set on a circuit board, but are soldered together and hang in the encasement.

All inputs are in use, my CD player, turntable and DVD player are connected (the DVD player for stereo output, the surround is diverted to the Cambridge Audio Amplifier).

My CD player is an Naim CD5i. Ever since I saw a previous model at a friends house, I’ve loved the Naim design. Sleek, simple and a terrific looking CD drawer. Also the sound is great. Of course there are better CD players out there, but I’m still bound to a budget and this was the best looking and sounding player out there for me.

The turntable is a German Clearaudio Emotion Black, again this has been chosen with a budget in mind, but also, as you can hopefully see somewhat in the photo, with a sleek design in mind. All visible devices (the turntable, CD player and amplifier) all are straightforward in design. Nothing fancy, just rigid and black.

As the turntable needs a phono amp and the valve amplifier does not have one (an internal circuit board is available, but I didn’t like that), I had to look elsewhere for a phono amp and I found a nice and simple looking one in the Italian Bluenote Phono One.

In the end all this is very nice but does not really mean much if you haven’t got any loudspeakers to hear the music from. My intention was to get a pair of Italian Sonus Faber speakers (bookshelf format, not the big ones as my room is somewhere between 20 and 25 square meters). The shop that sells the Prima Luna amplifiers does so mostly in combination with the Sonus Faber speakers. When I was in the listening room in the shop, checking out the amplifier, they also hooked up a pair of AH! Black TjoeLipS to the amplifier. This is also a Dutch brand based on a speaker set aimed at the Asian market (Aurum Cantus V3M), the inner workings are replaced and calibrated for European listeners. There’s a bit more bass in the AH!’s then in the Sonus Faber speakers. And as I don’t have a subwoofer and most valve amplifiers do not have a bass and/or treble control, a bit more bass in the speakers is a welcome addition.

The Apple Mac Mini is the latest addition to the audio set. I bought it in December last year to see if Apple as an operating system would suit my needs and leave a better impression than the PC systems I’ve used before. Not that I wasn’t that unhappy with Windows, but I was with the hardware and that caused a lot of problems with Windows as a result.

The Apple system as a whole was great, but when doing a lot of photo editing, the Mac Mini couldn’t always hack it, so I upgraded to a Macbook Pro two months ago and did not want to get rid of my Mac Mini. Using it as a part of my audio setup seemed like a good step. I’d still have a backup computer if my Macbook Pro ever had problems and with my entire CD collection imported into iTunes I can now use it next to my CD player (the turntable is infinitely nicer as an experience but not always as practical).

The iPod Touch works as remote to the system and it works just fantastic.

As for the quality in sound of the whole, it’s hard to give judgement. I mean, I love it, but I’m no audiophile. My options in what I can hear are limited (having seen well over a 1000 live performances hasn’t done much for my ears ;).

Thanks Klaas!

(Images: Klaas Jan Guchelaar/a>)