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New music listening room

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

Click images above to enlarge.

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.

After nearly eight 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 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 is similar to UK government personnel changes issue. Unreliable and lack of specific quality trades’ personnel!

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.

As you can see from photograph two, 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.

Experience has now taught me not to offer any further completion dates. The actual ‘final build’ completion was on time. Underfloor heating and floor tiling is 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 am 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. 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 am grateful, despite the fact that I now resemble a slightly faulty one-armed bandit at a funfair.

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 feels to walk around looking at areas that require work I have the skill to do, but not being able to due to hopefully a temporary physical impairment? I am sure others have greater issues, so again, I am grateful the operation is now in the past and healing has begun.

Obviously I am keen to get back to serious listening. Area focus points have shifted naturally as this project has progressed, however, works build and finish quality are still at the forefront of everything here. I am also at a stage when I need to look at the forever dwindling budget. Yes, the cost of a can of baked beans has increased substantially AND so has the cost of each amplifier on my shortlist!

Research started in early 2021.
The amplification shortlist has changed briefly by either adding or taking away specific models. Even the Gryphon Essence Mono amplifiers were a consideration for a very brief moment, however, the imaginary money tree began to wilt.

The shortlist is changing:

1. 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

2. Gryphon Diablo 300 integrated amplifier

Gryphon Diablo 300 integrated amplifier

3. Boulder 866 Ballanced Stereo integrated amplifier

Boulder 866 Stereo 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


Removed from shortlist (December 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 - March 2023

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