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New music listening room

Michael Valentine Studio
New music listening room 2023
New music listening room

Click an image to enlarge (except amplifier images).


May 2021 - Moving on up (or down South to be more accurate)


After over fifty years of relatively peaceful living in South London, I have been fortunate to be able to relocate to hopefully almost guaranteed peace (and greater space) of the South Coast.

Like many house hunting music lovers, my top priority (alongside location - location, aspect and property structural integrity) is ‘can the hi-fi and music collection fit comfortably in the new listening space?’

This is my third and hopefully final move, so I had to get it right! Now with greater musical experience, more (and better) hi-fi components and an even larger record collection, I look forward to designing my music listening room (Michael Valentine Studio) almost from scratch.

June - November 2021 - Design & Planning

After many months of planning, re-planning and waiting for local authority approval, building works started on 31 January 2022. The cost of living, building and labour costs have increased (and continue to rise) dramatically, however, I am still working hard to insure I reach my goal. The build completion date has changed a few times now due to earlier unpredictable weather patterns, design alterations and structural calculation changes. The last predicted full completion date was August 2022. Of course, this date came and went faster than the last UK Prime Minister. The reason for this completion date change was similar to UK government personnel changes. A shortage of high quality and trustworthy trades’ personnel!

July - September 2022 - Basic structure completed

The listening room dimensions are now 3.65m width X 8.53m length (12’ X 28’ in old money). This may not seem substantial to some (especially to some of my American cousins) but this is a huge increase on my previous terraced listening space in South London and opens up various component placement possibilities (especially as a MartinLogan ESL user). Dedicated single radial circuits have been installed to cater for individual system components,
finished with silver plated sockets.

New music listening room

As you can see from the photograph here, my beloved MartinLogan
ESL 11A speakers have been placed roughly into their proposed positions. Kimber 12TC speaker cable has been installed within conduit under the floor tiles between each speaker. So progress has definitely been made.



October 2022 - Setbacks and challenges

Experience has now taught me not to offer any further completion dates. The actual ‘structure’ completion was on time. Underfloor heating and floor tiling was also completed (at last). However, the changing works start dates regarding underfloor heating and floor tiling had a huge impact on other minor parts of this project. I was actually at a point where I could have taken over the project completely to finish any minor snagging issues and install various items such as doors, locks and finish painting throughout my property. This would have finally led to me inviting specific company amplifiers onsite (albeit with a smaller budget). BUT I continued this project under the shadow of my two-year outstanding shoulder operation. We are all aware of NHS operation wait times? The shoulder operation took place on 14 October 2022 and I was grateful, despite the fact that I resembled a slightly faulty one-armed bandit at a funfair for several weeks.

So, no DIY and certainly no lifting of any item (not even a vinyl record) for a number of weeks. Great timing? Can you imagine how it felt to walk around looking at areas in my home that needed work I had the skill to complete, but not being able to, due to hopefully a temporary physical impairment? I am sure others have had to manage greater issues, so again, I was grateful the operation was now in the past and healing had begun.

May 2023 - Nearly there

New music listening room

I am nearly ready to start listening to amplifiers even though the amplifier piggy bank is forever changing. Yes, the cost of a can of baked beans has increased substantially AND so has the cost of each amplifier on my shortlist.





Mains leads & Quadraspire Q4 component rack

Mains leads plugged in and ready to connect. Quadraspire Q4 component rack set-up ready. I do realise this rack will most likely need reconfiguring, or may have to go altogether depending on my amplifier / pre-amplifier choice, however, this rack will be needed in the interim for my turntable, phonostage and CD player.



Amplifier research started in early 2021 & is still ongoing

The amplification shortlist has changed by either adding or taking away specific models. Even the Gryphon Essence Mono amplifiers were a consideration for a very brief moment, before the imaginary money tree began to wilt. EAR Yoshino 509 Monoblock (pair required) was at the top of my list for some time. I initially heard these way back in the early 00s and was impressed at the time, however, I was not in the market for amplification and I confess that I have never considered ‘valve’ amplification until experiencing Von Gaylord valve amplifiers at the February 2023 Bristol HI-FI Show. Unfortunately, the EAR 509 Monoblock valves are one of the many product casualties of the Russian & Ukraine conflict. The valves used in this amplifier are sourced from Russia, therefore, are unavailable at present. I have messaged both Nevin and Dena at EAR Yoshino asking for updates regarding the possibility of sourcing valves from an alternative supplier, however, positive news was also in short supply! I am awaiting further information regarding the EAR 890 amplifier with regards to its compatibility and capabilities.

So, we now have two new amplifiers at the top of the list. Yes, there are a few threads that question BHK Signature 250 stereo and BHK Signature 300 monoblock capabilities against specific difficult to drive speakers such as MartinLogan ESL’s. I posed the same question to the UK distributor who did not say yes, or no (If I had a penny for all the times I have had the same response from a hi-fi distributor or retailer I would be able to pay off the UK national debt and still have change for the BHK 250 & 300). Let’s see how this goes…


1. The BHK Signature 250 Stereo Power Amplifier & 300 Signature Monoblock Power Amplifiers
(added to list May 2023)

The BHK Signature 250 Stereo Power Amplifier (added to list May 2023 The BHK Signature 300 Monoblock Power Amplifier (added to list May 2023

2. Gryphon Diablo 303 integrated amplifier
(added to list May 2023)

Gryphon Diablo 303 integrated amplifier

3. Gryphon Diablo 300 integrated amplifier

Gryphon Diablo 300 integrated amplifier

4. Audia Flight FLS10 Ballanced Stereo integrated amplifier (added to list December 2022)

Audia Flight FLS10 Ballanced Stereo integrated amplifier

5. Audia Flight Strumento No. 4 MKII stereo power amplifier (added to list April 2022)

Audia Flight Strumento No. 4 MKII Stereo Power Amplifier


Reluctantly removed from list May 2023

EAR 890 70 Watts per channel stereo (bridgeable to 140 watts mono) amplifier
(added to list May 2023)

EAR 890 70 Watts per channel stereo (bridgeable to 140 watts mono) amplifier

Ear 509 100 watt Monoblock (added to list March 2023)

Message directly from Ear Yoshino
'Unfortunately, we are unable to supply the 509's at the moment due to
the conflict in Russia.'

'We are unable to get the valves from Russia, so the cost of the valves
elsewhere has gone too high.'

Regards Dina – EAR Yoshino

Ear 509 100 watt Monoblock

Removed from list May 2022

Hegel H590 integrated amplifier

Hegel H590 integrated amplifier

Coda 60.0 mono amplifier x 2 (with FET Preamplifier 06x or 07x)

Coda 60.0 mono amplifier x 2 (with FET Preamplifier 06x or 07x)

Research and communication with all the above amplifier companies continues. Other amplifiers may be added to the mix, while others may be removed. I am looking forward to listening to the next musical chapter.

Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio
December 2021 - May 2023

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