A HiFi Setup

By Connor Taffe | Published .

Years ago, I decided to upgrade my Edifier S2000 Pro powered bookshelf speakers, and bought a pair of Magnepan Little Ribbon Speakers (LRS). I had heard amazing things about ribbon speakers, but owning a pair of Magnepans had been out of reach for me until the release of the LRS. At the time of writing, the LRS has been discontinued and replaced with the more expensive LRS+. I placed an order in early April of 2021, and they arrived in late October. The Edifiers are excellent all-in-one speakers which now reside in my friend's apartment in Philadelphia.

These speakers required a lot of power to drive, often paired with an amp like the NAD M33 which can provide 380 watts into 4Ω. On their website, Wendell Diller wrote:

The LRS is a full-range quasi-ribbon speaker that was designed from the ground up to give you a pretty good idea what to expect from the 20.7 or 30.7. The LRS was designed using high-end electronics and monoblocks. The LRS will perform nicely with a receiver, but it was intentionally designed to extract the most from high-end amplifiers and electronics. The LRS expects more from a properly designed high-current amplifier. That is a radical departure from most entry-level loudspeakers. If you put your expensive high-end amplifier on the LRS, you will hear the difference.

High power amps are expenive, much more expensive than the LRS they'd be driving. To save money, I took to Facebook Marketplace and found an old Audio/Video Receiver: a Yamaha RX-V750. The Yamaha included good quality versions of all the components I needed: a DAC to handle TOSLINK audio out from my television; a preamp, and an amplifier which could handle a 4Ω load at 150 watts; a separate subwoofer output with configurable crossover; multiple analog inputs for a record player, tape deck, etc.; and a remote control -- for less than $100.

I paired these speakers with a Rythmik L12 subwoofer and set the crossover to 80Hz.

%3atvApple TVtvTVatv->tvavrYamaha RX-V750tv->avrsubRythmik L12avr->subspeakersMagnepan LRSavr->speakers

The issue with the Yamaha is that it would trigger protection at peak wattage, cutting out at high volume during movies or listening. So, I replaced the amplifier role with a dedicated one: a Schiit Vidar. Rated for 200 watts into 4Ω, it increased the peak volume but I still ran into its protection at high volumes. For years I planned to get a second Vidar and to run them in monoblock configuration, but the lack of 4Ω rating for the Vidar as a monoblock amplifier troubled me. I emailed Schiit and Daniel Katz responded:

For the Vidar's it should be completely fine, but I do have to warn you that with some speakers that are 4 ohms in monoblock mode, it may go into protection as well, there is still that possibility.

The other hurdle was that in monoblock mode, the Vidar only supports balanced inputs, but my Yamaha only outputs unblanaced (RCA) preamp outputs. The next step up, the Schiit Tyr, does support unbalanced inputs but would be around three thousand dollars for two monoblock amplifiers which can produce 350 watts into 4Ω.

Enter, Bryston

Late last year, I visited Memphis and stopped into the Memphis Listening Lab, where they have a stereo setup estimated to cost a quarter million dollars. In that stack of equipment, I spied a Bryston amplifier. I wondered if a Bryston amp could solve my problem, and glancing at the specs for the Brsyton 4B Cubed I saw that it could output a mind-boggling 500 watts into 4Ω, but at a price tag of over seven thousand dollars -- out of my price range. But what about an older model? I read some reviews from the late 90s and searched on eBay, settling on a 4B-ST which is rated for 400 watts into 4Ω -- and totalling $1,400 shipped.

Bryston 4B-ST
Bryston 4B-ST

The Bryston has been incredible. Using the NIOSH SLM app, I was able to measure peaks of 102dB from the couch -- around ten feet from the speakers. A Kill-A-Watt reported bursts of power consumption at 700W. But even the Bryston can clip, I've played some very loud music and caused clipping where the green lights on the front of the app blink red, and even blown a fuse on the Magnepans. A clipped sound wave is essentially DC current at very high wattage, which can cause overheating of the speaker circuitry, the fuse protects against this by sacrificing itself. I use a 250V 3A quick-blow fuse for my Magnepans.

%3atvApple TVtvTVatv->tvavrYamaha RX-V750tv->avrsubRythmik L12avr->subampBryston 4B-STavr->ampspeakersMagnepan LRSamp->speakers


To celebrate, I made a batch of Regent Punch (printable recipe) and invited a few friends for a listening party. We passed around the Apple TV remote and queued up songs throughout the night. I think the best sounding were songs like Landslide by Fleetwood Mac, with acoustics and clear vocals. Rock songs were a bit harder to appreciate, but dance music like Hung Up by Madonna or Loneliness (Klub Cut) by Tomcraft was carried by the subwoofer. The subwoofer is usually blended at closer to a quarter turn on the volume knob, but I moved it an additional quarter turn as we played more dance music. The Bryston is 29dB gain compared to the Vidar's 26dB, so it may need to be adjusted up to blend correctly anyway. Reception was very positive.

Punch bowl filled with Regent's Punch
Punch bowl filled with Regent's Punch

The punch is a recipe published by Punch Magazine, an excellent source of cocktail recipes, taken from Will Duncan of Chicago's Punch House. In their article, How Well Do You Know the Flowing Bowl, describes it as a favorite of King George IV. I made the following substitutions due to availability:

Original Used
Batavia arrack Cachaça -- a Brazilian liquor distilled from sugarcane.
Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Gold Rum Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black Rum, the same rum with more artificial coloring. The color of the punch was largely unchanged after addition.
Champaign Lamarca Prosecco

In How to Use Batavia Arrack in Cocktails, several bartenders express how similar it is to rum:

It is closest to rhum agricole in comparison

It is, essentially, a funky Indonesian ancestor to rum.

Cachaça, rum and rhum agricole are all distilled from sugarcane.

Additionally, I scaled the recipe by one and a half times, and used fresh juice for each of the lemon, orange, and pineapple juices via the following methods:

Fruit Method
Lemons I squeeze with Consumer Reports Best Citrus Squeezers Editor's Choice, the Chef'n FreshForce Citrus Juicer -- it's simplest to handle when squeezing the nearly a dozen lemons necessary for this recipe. Each yields about 1/8 cup of juice, or 2 tablespoons.
Oranges I use an old Proctor-Silex JUICIT -- a countertop appliance with a spinning reamer and pulp catcher which makes juicing oranges as easy as halving them and pressing them onto the reamer. Each yields about 1/2 cup of juice.
Pineapple I peel and chop before transferring to a Vitamix and them straining the slurry through a fine wire strainer -- the remaining pulp is likely good for your digestion. Each yields about 2 cups of juice.

We visited our local Asian Supermarket for green tea. For three cups, I placed three tablespoons of dry green tea in a French Press, heated a kettle of water and then waited for it to cool to 180F (using an instant read thermometer), and combined to steep. After three minutes, the tea is ready to add to strain into the oleo saccharum.