Set the speakers in a triangle with your favourite chair, dim the lights and CarePack-3 takes music reproduction to the next level with a system that is technically revealing as it is musically engaging. CarePack-3 comes with either bookshelf or floor-standing speakers. Both are good but, if you have space, go for the floor-standers!
Never Say No to Monitor Audio Silver Speakers,
Monitor Audio Silver 50 and Silver 200 employ identical materials for all their drive units. Of course they’re all domes, that’s what Monitor Audio’s famous for. Woofer, bass/midrange and tweeter domes are all dome-shaped and fabricated from ‘CCAM’. CCAM for an ideal blend of stiffness and internal damping. And, because the drive units are all identical, when sound transitions from one drive unit to another, the result is a seamless and natural crossover.
Silver series key feature is their cabinetry. Yes, they’re beautiful with real timber veneers and high-end painted finishes, but their benefit goes much deeper than that. SIlver cabinets are all about strength and rigidity. Imagine anchoring a cabinet so it’s rock-solid. When the speaker dome moves, every fraction of a millimetre of cone movement gets turned into music. There’s no energy lost in a soft, absorbent cabinet. Baffles don’t vibrate in sympathy with the drive units so nothing is cancelled, nothing is doubled. That’s what Silver series is all about; delivering the truth of the drive units without cabinet colourations.
When you set Silver models besides their Bronze counterparts, the difference is quite remarkable.
Silver series speakers come in 4 timber veneers: Walnut, ‘Rosenut’ (a rosewood-stained-walnut), Natural Oak, Black-painted Oak; and 2 painted finishes, a Polished Black Gloss and Satin White. There is enough variety in timber finish to complement any decor. Gloss black and satin white both have unique ‘stealth’ qualities. They both disappear into light or dark coloured walls by reflecting their surrounding hue. Their disappearing-act is really quite remarkable.
Choose the speakers that best suit you.
In CarePack-3 you can choose between Silver 50 bookshelf speakers and Silver 200 free-standers. Set the Silver 50 on furniture 50-70cm off the ground to put the speaker approximately at ear level. Silver 200 sits directly on the floor so that their speakers naturally lineup with ear-level with a small tilt. Silver 200’s two 5″ bass cones have a double the surface area of Silver 50 and yet they produce a similar ‘amount’ of sound. But the Silver 200 delivers clearer midrange and the dedicated 2nd woofer improves bass quality over the smaller ’50. If you can afford the extra space and money, Silver 200 always sounds better.
The Pro-Ject X1 Turntable
Look, I’m serious about turntables, and so is Pro-Ject Audio! In CarePack-3, I’m using the brand-new X1. X1 is a 25-year evolution of the original Pro-Ject-1 that came out in 1995! What do you get after a quarter of a century?
The plinth is extra-thick high-density fibreboard, veneered in real walnut. The motor is driven by a mains isolated power supply that generates its own 50Hz sinewave. It’s double-isolated from the plinth with a customer aluminium mount and TPE plastic isolators. The bearing is bronze and stainless steel and their machining tolerances that fit so they’re almost airtight! The platter is heavy acrylic for its uniformity and flywheel effect, but most importantly because it has the same energy properties as the vinyl record. You’ve heard of 200gram vinyl, this is 1200g vinyl!
Tonearm and head-shell are one-piece carbon fibre-over aluminium. The two dissimilar materials, one hard and thin, the other softer and thick, cancel each other’s resonances. That means that any energy that cartridge didn’t covert into sound is transferred, away from the stylus, to a massy brass bearing assembly, but the arm-wand that transfers it is totally silent. The bearing is a height-adjustable Kardan gimbal for minimum ‘play’ and absolute accuracy. The counterweight is decoupled from the tonearm to minimise resonance. The counterweight is lowered to the diamond’s centre of gravity for improved stability.
The CarePack-3 cartridge is a $660 Ortofon model from Denmark with a Van den Hul designed fine-line diamond stylus. Forget the ‘Black, 2M Bronze is my favourite moving magnet cartridge on the market today.
I calibrate every X1 turntable here in the shop before it goes out. That means that the bearings adjustment will be perfect, stylus rake angle, overhang, zenith and azimuth will be perfect. The result is a turntable that doesn’t sound like ‘playing records’. Pro-Ject X1 with 2M Bronze sounds like playing music.
Digital Done Right
Of course, you still have CDs! They’re not totally outdated by streaming convenience. And hunter-gatherer trips to garage sales and op-shops will likely build a better CD collection these days than it will, vinyl. But what to play them on? CD players are thin on the ground.
Rotel still makes CD players. And CarePack-3‘s CD11’s a ripper. It’s heavy. Everything Rotel builds is heavy. That’s important because a CD player mechanism is affected by vibration. It gets vibration from the spindle motor, as well as from the sound that the speakers produce themselves. With less vibration, a CD player delivers better sound. CD11’s mechanism is screwed down onto a heavy steel base and that, in turn, is screwed down onto the heavy steel chassis of the CD11.
Now, this might sound strange, but we won’t be listening to the CD11! When we connect it to the A14 amplifier with an optical digital cable, Rotel up-samples 16bit CD digital to high-resolution 32bit data before conversion to analogue. In doing so, Rotel CD-11/A14 loses the ‘clinical’ or ‘digital’ character that old CD players produced and introduces you to a whole layer of detail that was masked in your old 16bit CD system.
A Bluetooth Amplifier
Rotel’s A14 integrated amplifier is a gutsy-sounding amp with enough current output to bring any speaker to life. It partners especially well with Silver 50 and Silver 200.
A14 has connections for the Pro-Ject turntable, the CD-11 CD player, a tuner if you so desire and two AUX connections. It also has 6 digital inputs. I like connecting one of them to the headphone output of a TV. In the menu, you can set the level of the TV input and then adjust the volume using your remote. But its most versatile connection is Bluetooth.
Rotel APT-X Bluetooth is built-in and it sounds great streaming from Spotify (MP3) or Tidal (CD/FLAC) and it’s how I mostly listen to the radio lately, with ‘TuneIn radio’ and ABC’s ‘Listen’ app. Bluetooth and all other digital inputs take advantage of the fantastic AKM 32bit/768kHz digital processing – one of the highest resolution digital processors on the market today! For the ultimate digital indulgence, connect a computer to the USB input and play a Tidal Masters file in studio quality resolution. The result is astonishing.
Here’s What The Abso!ute Sound Magazine Said About A14
Sensible Wiring by Van den Hul
Everything wires up with decent wire. There’s no point in choosing great equipment in CarePack-3 only to have it let down by ‘freebie’ wires. The wire that Pro-Ject supplies with their turntable is excellent – no need to change that – but the CD player calls for something better.
I hand-make 1m cables with Van den Hul coaxial wire and Amphenol RCA plugs.
CarePack-3 comes with a 3m pair of thick 12 gauge Van den Hul speaker wire. Van den Hul draws their copper in a nitrogen environment to maintain oxygen-free copper purity. Before it touches air, the copper is silver-plated for protection. A thick rope of these silver-plated strands is wrapped in linear structured carbon and encased in a flexible chemically inert airtight jacket. My banana plugs are gold ‘leaf’ style connectors for convenience. Not really a banana plug because of the absence 0f ‘banana-shaped-springs’ (that ruin the connection integrity, btw), these plugs fit a standard 4mm socket and ‘graunch’ themselves into place, thus making excellent metal-to-metal connection every time.
Location, Location, Location…
Set your CarePack-3 turntable on top of your cabinet. The feet of the X1 decouple the plinth from your cabinet so it doesn’t matter what material it is.
The CD and amplifier can stack together. They come in silver or black anodised aluminium finishes. Ignore the photo. I’d prefer to set the CD player under the amplifier because the heat from the amplifier rises and the player will only last longer if it’s not absorbing amplifier heat.
The speakers should beset a triangle with where you sit. If you sit 3m away from your speakers, they should be 2.5-to-3m apart, and the Silver 200 should be tilted all-the-way-back. You can read my blog about speaker placement here: https://sbhifi.com.au/speakers-on-top-best-positioning-for-your-speakers/
Connect your turntable, CD and speakers to the amplifier. Connect the power pack and cords into a power-strip and you’re ready to go for the next 30 years!