The Hawks/Rogers Reference Music System

By Chuck Hawks

What I call the "Hawks/Rogers System" has gone through numerous revisions over the years. It is the Hawks/Rogers System because Tony Rogers and I originally put it together. Tony and I were friends and roommates while serving in the Air Force and later as retread GI Bill college students. During this time, we each contributed $10/week to build the best stereo system we could manage. When our joint fund reached the point where we could buy a desired component, we did. We purchased our reference music system literally one piece (such as an Altec-Lansing woofer) at a time. It required time and patience, but in the end, we succeeded in creating our reference stereo system, which we used primarily for rock, folk rock and classical music. Sadly, Tony was killed in an auto accident a couple of years later and I inherited our joint system. The system has evolved since then, of course, but it has remained stereo (two channel) and to me it remains the Hawks/Rogers System.

At its apex, the Hawks/Rogers System included:

  • Altec-Lansing A7-500 "Voice of the Theater" (VOTT) floor standing loudspeakers
  • Monster Wire speaker cables (15' each)
  • Marantz Model 250M power amplifier
  • McIntosh MQ101 environmental equalizer
  • McIntosh C26 pre-amplifier
  • Marantz Model 125 AM/FM tuner
  • Sony CDP-620ES CD player
  • Harman-Kardon CD-491 cassette deck
  • B&O Beogram 3404 automatic, single play turntable
  • Pioneer PL-41 (modified) manual turntable

These were very highly rated components when new, although all were purchased used in excellent to like new condition. With five program sources, separate pre and power amps and very big floor standing speakers, I think it could legitimately be called a large and impressive system.

By sometime in 2009, I had given away the turntables, my LP record collection, the tape deck and all associated tapes. I was living in a singlewide manufactured home and needed the space. I decided to down size and modernize the rest of the system. Specifically, I decided to give the big Altec A7-500's, along with the MQ101, to a friend and replaced them with floor standing tower speakers with a smaller footprint. (See the article "The Road to Klipsch RF-7 II Loudspeakers" for details.)

Change one component and it is like a chain reaction. Before it was over, I had also replaced the McIntosh C26 pre-amp and the Sony ES CD player. The Hawks/Rogers System, as I write these words, now looks like this:

  • Klipsch Reference RF-7 II floor standing loudspeakers
  • Monster Wire speaker cables (9' each)
  • Marantz Model 250M power amplifier
  • Marantz Reference Series SC-11S1 pre-amplifier
  • Marantz Model 125 AM/FM tuner
  • McIntosh MVP871 SA-CD/CD/DVD player

As you can see, only the Marantz 250M power amplifier and Model 125 tuner remain from the previous incarnation of the Hawks/Rogers System. Both have recently been reconditioned and are in perfect condition. By feeding the audio output of my digital TV cable box into one of the pre-amp's "line" inputs, the dozens of available digital sound music channels serve as a third program source.

The MVP871's DVD capability means that I was able to eliminate my old Panasonic DVD player by feeding the McIntosh's video output to my Toshiba Regza HD TV. Although it remains a two-channel music system, the Hawks/Rogers System also dramatically enhances the quality of TV and video sound. In fact, in that role it sounds superior to the great majority of 7.1 home theater systems I have heard in small listening rooms. (Mine is about 14'x14'.)

The RF-7 II loudspeakers are positioned 15.5" away from a side wall, 6' apart and angled directly at my listening position, which is 8' in front of the speakers. The room has wall-to-wall carpeting and is a reasonable balance of sound reflective and absorptive surfaces. My reference listening level is 80db SPL (for mean loud passages), "A" weighted. Short duration peaks are, of course, louder. My normal listening volume is considerably lower.

My current preferences are primarily for rock, new country and classical (mostly symphonic) music. Overall, I am pleased with the sound of the current system, particularly the Klipsch loudspeakers. I researched and auditioned many tower loudspeakers before choosing the RF-7 II's, some costing up to twice their price. In the end, I liked the RF-7 II's best. The bass is powerful and extended, while the mid and high frequencies, although lacking the presence of the previous Altec VOTT's, sound clear and accurate. The frequency response seems reasonably smooth. (The specified frequency response of the RF-7 II loudspeakers is 30-24,000 Hz +/-3db.) One commentator went overboard, referring to the new system as "audio nirvana." It isn't, really, but I do find it pleasing.

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Copyright 2011, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.