Jeff

Feb 182018
 

I really appreciate the emails I get from you. Take for example the recent email from Robert Atkinson, expanding upon using the Hagerman FryBaby2 compact burn-in generator for interconnects, speaker cables, capacitors, and resistors.

FryBaby2 compact burn-in generator.

Jim’s manual for the FryBaby2 is very brief and doesn’t really give the reader a comprehensive overview of the specifics of the variety of ways that the FryBaby2 can be used to condition preamplifiers, amplifiers, wire, capacitors, inductors, resistors, etc., so much of the knowledge about its use for such things is shared via users of the device, like Robert.

Here’s Robert’s comment on the FryBaby2 in case you missed it in the comment section:

“Hello Jeff–

I came across this recent discussion on use of the Frybaby2 and I thought I might add some information I received from Jim Hagerman. I found the instructions that come with the Frybaby a little on the sparse side so emailed Jim with a few questions. I’ll try to summarize his replies.

How to do parallel burn in of speaker cable. Jim said you cannot do it, for instance, on a spool of bulk wire. Parallel burn in will not happen without a signal/return pair of wires running together. Also, parallel burn in is impacting the dialectric and not the wire. It is best to have the speaker cables made up first, with signal and return legs tightly coupled, as in a twisted pair and any other cable sleeving in place. Connect one wire in the cable to the red side of the binding post adaptor and the other wire in the cable to the black side of the binding post adaptor.

Parallel burn in of XLR cables. Jim said it must be done in two steps, first step, you burn in the pair of signal wires and second step, you burn in the shield/return. To complete first step, connect pin 2 to (the center pin) on one of the Frybaby outputs and connect pin 3 to the (center pin) on the other output. After it has cooked the desired length of time, connect pins 2 and 3 together into one output and pin 1 into the other output to complete the burn in.

Burn in of capacitors. He stated you simply hook up a single capacitor or several capacitors in series from the black side to the red side of the binding post adaptor.

Burn in of resistors. He was not sure it would have much affect, but resistors could be connected in the same way as capacitors.

Hope this may help others that may be needing a bit more information, as I was.”

I thought I’d also share my communications with Jim Hagerman on using the FryBaby2 for capacitors that you might find useful:

  • Jim on conditioning capacitors: “Mount the cap between RED and BLK binding posts.  There is no voltage mode for caps. BLK post to BLK post has no signal.  RED to RED is ok.  RED to BLK is ok. Voltage mode works the dielectric in cables via electric fields. Current mode is for magnetic fields on conductors. When doing capacitors, you wire it up similar to current mode but it’s actually doing a voltage mode burn – working the dielectric. Think of a cable as a very long capacitor…”

One of the beauties of the FryBaby2 is that it has the ability to separate the conditioning of the conductors (current mode) from the conditioning of the dielectric (voltage mode).

This is particularly beneficial for the Duelund DCA (or other) tinned-copper wires & cables, because they benefit from conditioning the dielectric, but I have come to the conclusion that conditioning the tinned-copper conductors aggressively with a burn-in generator can actually degrade their performance.

In explaining the screenshot from Jim’s FB2 manual below, Jim says, “The FryBaby2 can burn in a stereo pair of interconnects by using the female-to-female adapter at the far end. First, do a voltage burn by connecting the interconnect pair directly to the FryBaby2 outputs. Set to ON. After the voltage burn, do a current burn by inserting the adapter to close the loop.”

Screenshot from Jim’s FB2 manual for voltage vs. current conditioning.

Voltage conditioning of the dielectric of speaker cables can be done in similar fashion, by directly connecting the bare wire or spades/bananas to the binding post adapters, leaving the cables open ended, and switching the FryBaby2 to ON.

You can’t condition a single run of wire (on a spool for example) like this, because “voltage mode is essentially creating an electric field between two pairs of conductors (such as an interconnect or speaker cable), and if the conductors are too far apart then the amplitude of the electric field tends towards zero (Jim Hagerman)”.

With thicker unterminated wire like the Duelund DCA12GA it’s difficult to get it to stay put on the binding post adapters during conditioning, but there’s an easy work around that will accomodate larger gauge wires easily, and that is by building a set of RCA adapters with alligator leads, which can clamp down even on sizable cables.

That way you can easily do voltage conditioning of even a sizable wire’s dielectric by temporarily turning them into interconnects.

Here’s how to do it:

To get started, pick a set of four RCA’s like you would for building interconnects, as well as two sets of alligator leads.

I used four Switchcraft 3502AAU RCA’s I had handy, but you could use any RCA’s you have handy.

I used two white (return) and two red (hot) alligator leads to build my adapters.

First, cut the alligator leads in half and strip off a bit of insulation off each end (above).

Then take one red & white lead and slip the Switchcraft handle over them in preparation for soldering (below).

Then insert the stripped wire from the white alligator lead into the return for the clamp terminal and clamp down the tab so that it holds it in place, and then solder it in place to secure it (below).

Then insert the stripped end of the red alligator lead into the pin (hot) and solder it in place (below).

Screw the handle onto the plug housing and you now have one adapter completed (below)!

Repeat the process to complete your set of four RCA adapters for wire burn-in (below).

Now all you do is take a pair of adapters and connect a length of wire between the two red (hot) alligator leads, and another length of wire between the two white alligator leads (return) as if it were an interconnect.

Then take the other pair of adapters and wire them up the same way.

You now have a set of “interconnects” so you can condition the wire in the same way you do for regular interconnects.

Screenshot from Jim’s FB2 manual for voltage vs. current conditioning.

As per Jim’s manual, insert the wired-up RCA adapters into the FryBaby2’s female RCA outputs.

To do voltage conditioning of the dielectric via electric fields, leave the RCA’s open circuited as in the diagram above, and then turn on the FryBaby2 and let it work its magic on the dielectric.

To do current conditioning of the conductors via magnetic fields insert the female-to-female adapter between the two interconnects to close the loop, then turn on the FryBaby2.

When you’re all done with the conditioning, remove the wires from the alligator clips and use them in your intended application.

The nice thing about being able to condition the wire’s dielectric & conductors separately is that there is an optimum amount of conditioning time for the dielectric and for the conductors, and they’re likely different from each other.

The most extreme example of this I’m aware of is with the Duelund DCA tinned-copper wire, which loves to have its dielectric voltage-conditioned for a nice increase in tonality, but really doesn’t benefit from from current-conditioning of the conductors, which can add a bit of glare and roughness to the high-frequencies.

Wires made of pure copper or pure silver or combinations thereof will respond differently, so a little trial & error will be involved in finding out what the best combination of conditioning is for their respective dielectrics and conductors.

These RCA adapters make it easy to condition wire with the FryBaby2, whether it’s for wire to be used in headshell leads, crossovers, speaker cables, or something else.

Anyways, I hope expanding on the use of the FryBaby2 for conditioning cable dielectric & conductors provides some utility for you.

Thanks again to Robert for his informative comment that spurred this post!

Happy experimenting!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 10:29 am
Feb 172018
 

I’ve been looking at guitars again, or more exactly, vintage Gibson ES 150 guitars. YouTube example below.

Listen to that incredible tone of “Fred Archtop’s” 1938 Gibson ES 150 “Charlie Christian“, it’s out of this world!

So what does that have to do with audio? Well, both guitars and audio intersect at music, that’s what!

Vintage 0.22uF ‘Bumblebee’ caps in my MX110Z tuner preamplifier.

You’ve heard me talk about a few “tone” trends with vintage guitars that overlaps into audio, like the use of tinned-copper wire/cables, or nice paper-in-oil capacitors like Black Beauties or Bumblebees, those vintage Allen Bradley carbon comp resistors, Alnico magnets (in speakers and guitar pickups), and of course vacuum tubes in those vintage guitar amps.

NOS Allen Bradley 56K Ohm 2W Carbon Comp Resistors.

What do they all have in common? Big round tone, or if you like to speak in acronyms, “BRT” (pronounced “brat” 😉 )

In this missive I want to tell you a little more about the relationship of wire gauge to tone, which I discussed somewhat in my Duelund DCA wire review at Positive Feedback HERE.

In the Positive Feedback review I talked about picking wire gauge that is appropriate for a given point in a system: headshell leads (fine wire), interconnects (bigger wire), and speaker cables (even bigger wire).

For a given application like a guitar pickup, for example, if you want “big round tone” you go for a comparatively heavier gauge wire for the winding (and Alnico magnets).

That’s what Gibson did for the original Charlie Christian pickup in the ES 150 that you heard above, and it’s what Lollar does in their Charlie Christian replica pickups. Big round tone.

So for example, if you’re picking out tinned-copper headshell leads you could pick from headshell leads made from Duelund DCA26GA, vintage Western Electric WE24GA, or 22GA Art of Tone, which get bigger and rounder tone as you progress towards the fatter wires (smaller gauges), which I suppose you could summarize as “fatter gauges give fatter tone”. The fatter wire gives fatter tone and smoother high-frequencies.

Art of Tone headshell leads with the Sumile phonograph cartridge.

Duelund DCA26GA headshell leads with the Sumile phonograph cartridge.

So when it comes to fatter tone from fatter wires, I’m talking in comparative rather than absolute terms, as the fatter wire in the Charlie Christian guitar pickup is still a very fine 38GA wire, but its fatter than the 41GA to 44GA wire usually used in pickups. In very general terms, if you want fatter tone in your pickups use fatter wire.

Which gauge size will work best for you will also depend on your system balance. If you’re system is a little too laid back and you want more resolution and HF energy to spice it up a bit, then you’d pick the DCA26GA for headshell leads. If you’re system is sounding a bit too forward in the upper midrange and you want to warm it up a bit, then you’d look at the WE24GA or AoT22GA.

Also, for a given gauge size, a Litz wire sounds brighter and more detailed than a solid-core wire, which sounds more rounded and warmer. When you think about what Litz wire is, the brighter & more detailed sound makes sense, because Litz wire is a bunch of skinny wires packaged together as a single wire, so they maintain a lot of their skinny wire sonic properties.

The nice thing about tinned-copper wire is that it gives particularly vivid and live-like HF performance, that makes brass and percussion sound startlingly real, for example, while maintaining mid-range naturalness.

So for another example, let’s say you’re using Duelund DCA12GA wire as speaker cables and it’s sounding a bit too laid back for your system, so you give the DCA16GA a try, which is more vivid in the midrange and HF. The permutations are almost endless of what you can try to give you that particular tonal balance you’re after.

Also, the insulation used also has an effect on overall tone. For example, there’s quite a few different insulations used for wires, from nothing at all, to enameled wire (common in the 1950’s and 1960’s in guitars), to oiled cotton or silk (Duelund), or fabric covered plastic like with the Western Electric or Art of Tone wires, and a lot more.

This also applies to the leads used in audio components like resistors or capacitors, where the diameter of the wire can have a big influence on overall tone.

The Lefson Premium, Supra, and Ultra resistors in the Altec A5 project crossovers.

For example, when doing the review of the excellent Lefson resistors from France, I noticed that for two models of the Lefson resisters that they were identical except for the leads. One resistor had doubled leads, and one resistor had single leads.

Guess which one had fatter tone? If you guessed the one with fatter doubled leads you were correct.

Whether it’s the dramatic effects of less than one inch lengths of headshell lead wire on the overall system tone, or that of interconnects, speaker cables, power cables, wire leads on resistors & capacitors, or the interior wiring of loudspeakers, wire can have a profound effect on getting the overall tone of your system dialed in the way you want it.

If you’re not quite happy with the overall tonal balance of your hifi, it’s probably not the case that you need to change out a phonograph cartridge, digital source, preamplifier, amplifier, or loudspeakers, but rather that you need to optimize the wire connecting it all together.

But how do you approach that?

Start at the source, as it affects the tone of everything downstream.

Pick the wire you like the best at the source, then move onto the next connecting wire, say interconnects, then pick the wire you like the best there. Then do the same thing with speaker cables.

That’ll go a long way optimize the tonal performance of your system in the way that’s best for you.

If you want fatter tone for a forward sounding system try fatter wires. If you want skinnier tone to wake up a bland sounding system, go with skinnier wires.

Just remember there isn’t a single magic combination that will work for every system’s needs or listener’s tastes, but there is a magic combination that will work for you to dial in the tonality just the way you want it.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 11:35 am
Feb 152018
 

I love jazz. I love guitars. I love to hear jazz cats playing jazz on their guitars! It makes me smile. 🙂

George Barnes Quartet, Blues Going Up.

Blues Going Up is a nice jazz swing album featuring George Barnes (guitar), Duncan James (guitar), Benny Barth (drums), and Dean Reilly (bass), that was recorded live at Bimbo’s “supper club” on April 17, 1977.

Concord Jazz ‎– CJ-43, Vinyl, LP, US, 1977, Jazz, Swing.

This is a vibrant live set featuring some great jazz and guitar playing that you can buy for as little as $6.75 USD on Discogs.

This live recording sounds very natural, and of course live-like given it is a live recording.

Blues Going Up doesn’t exaggerate a sense of space, imaging, soundstaging, and resolution in audiophile-like distraction fashion (thankfully), so traditional audiophiles might not enjoy this as much as a music lover.

The musical nuance evident in the playing is superb, tone is fantastic, and Blues Going Up really put a smile on my face. Way recommended!

Carl Kress / George Barnes / Bud Freeman ‎– Two Guitars And A Horn (Volume II]

Two Guitars And A Horn is another great jazz album, featuring Carl Kress (guitar), George Barnes (guitar), and Bud Freeman (tenor sax).

Stash Records ‎– ST-228, Vinyl, LP, US, 1983, Jazz, Contemporary Jazz.

Two Guitars And A Horn was recorded live at the New York jazz club Chuck’s Composite in 1962, and you can pick up a copy on Discogs for around $10 USD.

The cover says it’s a stereo recording, but it sounds more like mono with its narrow center focus.

My Westminster’s sporting their Harris tweed sport coats.

This is great music, and to hear these two great guitarists play such great jazz is a real treat, and Bud Freeman’s tenor sax is magic!

Two Guitars And A Horn is a little more vivid sounding than Blues Going Up, and is not quite as smooth and natural sounding, but I think it’s awesome for the music! 

For those who enjoy details this recording is highly resolving, and you can hear everything they’re doing on the guitars & horn, as well as chairs squeaking, audience chatter, cash registers clanging, and glasses toasting.

Two Guitars And A Horn is another terrific jazz guitar album that’s an easy recommendation!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 2:00 pm
Feb 062018
 

To get my mind off the plunging stock market and my plunging retirement savings, I thought I’d do something edifying like give my Thorens TD124 a try on my vintage Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers.

I’ve wanted to revisit the Leben CS-600 integrated amplifier and Leben RS-30EQ combination that works so well together for a while now, so this was the perfect opportunity.

Here’s the system setup for vinyl at the moment:

  • Artisan Fidelity Thorens TD124 turntable, Schick tonearm, and Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103
  • Auditorium 23 SUT for Denon DL-103
  • Leben RS-30EQ phono preamplifier
  • Duelund silver interconnects from SUT to RS-30EQ
  • Duelund DCA16GA interconnects from RS-30EQ to CS-600
  • Leben CS-600 integrated amplifier with Sophia Electric EL34-ST tubes
  • Western Electric WE16GA speaker cables
  • Vintage Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers
  • Acoustic Revive Power Reference TripleC NCF power cords

There’s a reason that the Leben CS-600 and RS-30EQ combination has received so much praise at hifi shows, it is very musical combination.

The Harrow & The Harvest

Paired with my Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers, the CS-600 & RS-30EQ combination was sweet, rich, and musical playing  Gillian Welch’s and David Rawlings’ The Harrow & The Harvest.

The Thorens TD124 into my Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers system sounds a lot different than it did in my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE system.

I’ve got some more setup and fine tuning to do, but I’m really liking what I’m hearing!

More to come!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 10:12 am
Feb 042018
 

I went a bit wild today and decided to rearrange all my bedroom furniture so I could set up the new-to-me vintage Altec Corona loudspeakers as my bedroom system.

The speakers look small in the photo above because of the size of the room, but they’re really 3.5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, so they’re sizable, and they weigh in at over 100 pounds each.

That’s my 350 pound cast iron sleigh bed photo bombing the pic above, and is it ever a bugger to move!

The Corona’s are intended to be used in corners, and they really responded to being put in the corners with a huge dose of musicality – I like them a lot!

For a source I’m using my iMac feeding an mhdt Paradisea+ USB DAC, with one of Mark Coles’ fantastic power cords providing juice to the Paradisea+.

I’m using Duelund DCA16GA interconnects between the Paradisea+ and my wonderful little Almarro EL84 integrated amplifier, and Duelund DCA16GA speaker cables to connect the Almarro to the Corona’s.

While the Almarro sounds great stock, I’ve been wanting to do a capacitor- and resistor-ectomy on the little Almarro.

I think that with some NOS Allen Bradley carbon comp resisters and some Duelund tinned-copper caps (if they’ll fit) the little Almarro would be stunning.

The big vintage Altec 832A Corona’s in my bedroom system have surpassed all my expectations, and I can’t wait to hear them with some good Hiraga-style crossovers and some Duelund DCA internal wiring!

Ok, now it’s time for me to get busy and finish putting the bedroom back together, while listening to Seattle’s Jazz24 station streaming some awesome jazz while I work!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and as I’ve come to find out, the tone is out there! 😉

 Posted by at 5:22 pm
Feb 042018
 

I’m a huge fan of integrated amplifiers. In fact some of the finest amplification I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to music with has come from integrated amplifiers, like the Leben CS-600 and the Spec RSA-M3 EX.

I get quite a few messages from integrated amplifier owners asking me what separate components would better the performance of their systems, and while I love to explore all kinds of hifi amplification components myself, my typical answer to that sort of inquiry is to say something like, “there’s lots of good separates amplification out there, but I think you’ll be sorry if you sell your integrated amplifier to get it.”

In my opinion, integrated amplifiers can be the best choice for a lot of music lovers!

Leben CS-600 with Sophia Electric EL34-ST tubes.

Take for example the Leben CS-600 integrated amplifier which I’ve had for 10 years now, and which has continued to delight me with almost daily use over that 10 year period.

The Leben CS-600 is very well made, beautiful in appearance, and has been utterly reliable in the 10 years I’ve been enjoying its charms.

The only quibble I have with the Leben CS-600 is that there isn’t an optional top cover available for it that allows for the use of taller vacuum tubes like the Sophia Electric EL34-ST in the photo above.

I would encourage Mr. Taku Hyodo, founder of Leben Hi-Fi Stereo Company, to offer such an optional top cover, it would be a real asset to Leben lovers everywhere, and I’d volunteer be his first customer for it!

Leben CS-600 with the Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers.

My Leben CS-600 with the Sophia Electric EL34-ST’s as power tubes has been a particular delight powering my Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers in my AV system.

I encourage you to read my posts from days gone by about the Leben CS-600, like the Winning Combinations or A Simple Guide to Creating a Musically Satisfying Hi-Fi System posts from 2010, as well as others.

If you want to get a fantastically musical vinyl system just try this recipe:

  • One Leben CS-600 integrated amplifier.
  • One Leben RS-30EQ phono preamplifier.
  • A pair of decent two-way loudspeakers (restored vintage Altec’s with new crossovers are a great choice!).
  • A couple pairs of Belden 8402 microphone cable interconnects wired up Yazaki-san style (you’ll need the shielding for Leben products).
  • Some Duelund DCA16GA or DCA12GA for speaker cables.
  • A turntable with an Ortofon SPU Classic GM MkII stereo phono cartridge mounted on it, and a suitable SUT for it.

Back 10 years ago when I first wrote about the Leben CS-600 with the Harbeth Super HL5 loudspeakers as a system, after listening to the pairing for a while I was so enamored with its musicality I sold off my rather more ambitious system of Avantgarde Duo loudspeakers and TEAD electronics, and even those are also great hifi kit, I’ve never regretted it for a moment.

I’ve done a lot of dumb things in my life, but the Leben CS-600 & Harbeth combo wasn’t one of them, and it stands as a recommended system to this day, particularly so for those with smaller listening rooms.

There’s lots of great two-way loudspeakers that would be a good match to the Leben CS-600, and it has been uncanny how my very large 2-way vintage Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers have gelled with the CS-600. I marvel every time I listen to music or watch a film with that combo.

I haven’t had phono in my A5 AV system yet, but I’m thinking of adding in my Leben RS-30EQ and Thorens TD124 so I’ll be able to enjoy vinyl in two of my systems.

The Leben CS-600 integrated amplifier has great sonics and musicality, is beautiful, is utterly reliable, is very flexible in tube rolling, and is just all around great hifi kit! Highly recommended!

SPEC RSA-M3 EX Real Sound Amplifier

My admiration for Yazaki-san’s Spec RSA-M3 EX integrated amplifier has continued to grow over the 3 years I’ve been listening to it.

The Spec RSA-M3 EX integrated amplifier gives up absolutely nothing in sonics and musicality to a fine vacuum tube integrated amplifier like the Leben CS-600.

The Spec RSA-M3 EX integrated amplifier is made to an ultra-level of quality, is beautiful to look at, has been completely reliable in use, and has a level of sonic & musical prowess that is world class, making it the easiest of recommendations for an integrate amplifier to base a high-performance hifi on.

Stokowski Altec A7’s with Spec RSA-M3 EX.

The Spec RSA-M3 EX has been my amplifier of choice to power my vintage Altec “A7” loudspeakers that were custom made by Altec for conductor Leopold Stokowski back when he lived in the USA.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Spec RSA-M3 EX is a fantastic match to the Stokowski Altec’s, as Yazaki-san has an vintage Altec based loudspeaker system in his home system that he listens to his designs on during their development. Synergy!

Yazaki-san’s Altec-Onken loudspeakers.

If you follow the same advice I gave for the Leben CS-600 with the Spec RSA-M3 EX you’ll also get a superbly musical system.

My modest little nuevo-bungalow house is laid out kind of unusually. It has a big living room area that is open to a kitchen, dining room, and entryway hall space, where my Westminster-based music system lives.

The second biggest room is the master bedroom, which is nearly the size of my living room, and actually ends up being a lot of wasted space.

Until recently, I’ve had my Harbeth’s in there as part of a simple bedroom system, but I’ve always felt a little wary with tube gear in my bedroom system, for fear I’ll fall asleep while listening and burn the house down when a tube blows.

Leben CS600 integrated amplifier with Harbeth Super HL5 loudspeakers in my bedroom system.

Death by tube immolation is probably not a very realistic fear, as I’ve never had a tube failure that resulted in flames, but there’s no fear at all if the Spec RSA-M3 EX is the amplifier for my bedroom system!

So the plan is that I’m going to figure out how to make my big master bedroom double as a nice listening room, and coincidentally a local hifi pal, Howard, and my 93 year old Mom, independently suggested the same thing to me at almost the same time – it must be a sign! 😉

So my path forward is to figure out how to rearrange my master bedroom to do that.

I’m thinking that my new to me vintage 2-way Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers, once I do a little restoration wiring and do a few cabinet tweaks, and get some good Hiraga-style crossovers for them, will be my loudspeakers of choice for my master bedroom listening room.

Vintage Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers.

I suspect that my Spec RSA-M3 EX combined with my Altec 832A Corona’s will be a match made in heaven – the stuff dreams are made of!

I also suspect that the Spec RSA-Me EX combined with the vintage Corona’s, a musical digital source, some Duelund DCA12GA speaker cables, and Duelund DCA20GA interconnects will make for a mind-blowing system by any measure!

To summarize, if you’re thinking about putting together a world class audio system with superb musicality and sonics, I think either the Leben CS-600 or Spec RSA-M3 EX integrated amplifiers as its beating heart would make a superb choice for you, as they certainly have for me.

Anyways, as always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 1:23 pm
Feb 032018
 

It turns out that with my purchase of a pair of vintage Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers, that there are now four of us local friends that have vintage Altec loudspeakers with 800Hz (811B) horns that were designed for domestic use (Valencia’s, and now the Corona’s).

~ 1957 vintage Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers designed for domestic use.

Altec built a lot of loudspeakers that were designed for professional sound reinforcement use in theaters, studios, auditoriums, churches, etc., like the A2, A4, A5, A7, and others, but Altec also built a lot of speakers for domestic use, like the Valencia, Flamenco, Corona, Laguna, Capistrano, Verde, Iconic, and others.

Vintage Altec A5 “Voice Of The Theatre” loudspeakers.

Pro Altec speakers, like my A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers in the photo above, need a lot of crossover “help” to restore and voice them so that they can be suitable for a domestic listening environment, like my living room in the above photo.

Vintage Altec crossovers’ capacitors tend to get a little tired as the decades stack up on them, as well as not really being the best way to get all the music out of your vintage Altec’s that they’re capable of for home listening.

My favorite way to solve the pro-style Altec crossover conundrum is by using a modified Hiraga-style crossover that is adjustable so you can fine-tune the voicing to accomodate a domestic listening environment.

Vintage Altec 832A Corona loudspeaker.

Well, it turns out that vintage Altec loudspeakers designed for domestic listening largely use the same drivers as their pro cousins, which is a good thing.

However, instead of horns that cross over at 500Hz like the Altec 1005B horns used in my A5’s, or the Altec 511B horns used in my A7’s, Altec used smaller horns that cross over at 800Hz in their loudspeakers designed for domestic use in order to keep the loudspeakers’ overall size under control for domestic use.

That means Altec domestic loudspeakers needed an 800Hz crossover point for their horns, which necessitated 800Hz crossovers rather than the standard 500Hz crossovers used in the Altec pro loudspeakers.

Pete Riggle in his Garden of Earthly Delights listening room.

Pete Riggle (Pete Riggle Audio Engineering) told me quite a while back that he has had such good results building modified Hiraga-style crossovers for Altec pro loudspeakers like the A5 and A7 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers that utilized 500Hz horns, that he wanted to design and build modified Hiraga-style crossovers suitable for use with Altec loudspeakers designed for domestic use that use 800Hz horns, like his Valencia’s, or my Corona’s.

I mentioned to Pete a couple of days ago that I thought we ought to tell all of you about his crossover project for Altec 800Hz horns.

I figured just like with our local group of vintage Altec enthusiasts, there’s a lot of you non-local friends out there with simpatico interests that would be interested in hearing about Pete’s crossovers too.

So I suggested to Pete that I write a series of blog posts about him designing and building adjustable versions of his modified Hiraga-style crossovers for Altec domestic loudspeakers with 800Hz horns, eventually culminating in a feature article for Positive Feedback.

Vintage Altec 832A Corona domestic loudspeakers.

Pete liked the idea so we’re going to proceed.

We’ll test the 800Hz crossovers out and fine tune them on Pete’s Valencia’s and my Corona’s, and we’ll tell you about our thoughts and results every step of the way.

Stay tuned to find out how good we can make Altec domestic loudspeakers perform with new 800Hz Hiraga-style crossovers, there’s lots of vintage Altec crossover fun to come!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you.

 Posted by at 12:32 pm
Feb 012018
 

The vintage Altec Lansing 832A Corona’s arrived from LA Jazz Audio this morning via R+L Carriers, who were very helpful and polite, and brought the pallet with the Corona’s right up to my front door for easy unpacking -great service!

LA Jazz Audio did a nice packing job, and I was able to quickly remove the outer packing materials to reveal the speakers inside.

The speakers were carefully wrapped and shipped upside down to ensure there was no damage to the wood cabinet legs.

After removing all the padding and wrapping one vintage 832A loudspeaker was revealed!

Then two!

I hooked them up with some Duelund DCA12GA speaker cables and we gave them their first listen.

The vintage Altec’s acquitted themselves quite well, especially considering we were just giving them a quick check to make sure everything was working ok after their long trip.

George, Ron, Pete, and Rahul stopped by to give me a hand for the unpacking party – thanks guys!

We moved the Westminster’s aside so we could get a little better placement for the Corona’s, and it yielded substantial gains in sonics & musicality – very promising!

To get vintage Altec’s really singing a crossover-ectomy is required, and Pete Riggle already has been doing some crossover calculations to see what it would take to adapt the Hiraga crossover design to an 800Hz crossover point (Rev 0 is below).

I’ll continue to play them for a while in the main music system for a little fun & games, then they’ll move into my bedroom system until their turn comes up in the crossover queue!

It’s been a while since I’ve had such a “small” pair of loudspeakers in my living room system!

I’ll have much more to say about the vintage Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers in the near future!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 2:01 pm
Jan 282018
 

Today’s post was inspired by Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,  one of my favorite pointillist impressionism paintings, showing Parisians relaxing in a park on the banks of the Seine (below).

Public domain image from From Wikimedia Commons.

In a silly oddio variation on a theme, you get my music, film, literature, and audio impressions while I’m relaxing at the peaceful and edifying island of Jeffe’s Place on a Sunday afternoon.

This Sunday I’ve got some great jazz albums, a delightful 1947 vintage film, an inspired book, and some really cool vintage Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers to tell you about, that are all worthy of a Sunday afternoon reverie!

French Romani jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (1946). Public domain photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Let’s start with the music!

The Quintet Of The Hot Club Of France, Swing ’35-’39

First up is some vintage Parisian jazz with Swing ’35-’39, by The Quintet Of The Hot Club Of France, featuring Romani French jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and French jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli.

Decca Eclipse, ECM 2051, Treasury Series, Vinyl, LP, Mono.

This is a mono record, so I listened to it with my Ortofon SPU Mono CG 25 Di MkII mono phono cartridge on my hot-rodded Garrard.

If you’re looking for a hifi spectacular record, you won’t find it here with Swing ’35-’39, but you will find some spectacular and edifying seminal jazz, that makes for great Sunday afternoon listening. Highly recommended!

When I would get together with my friend and guitar teacher, John La Chapelle, he would teach me how to play jazz guitar, and we would have fun talking about music and musicians.

John La Chapelle & Larry Coryell having fun playing music together.

One of John’s most famous young students was Larry Coryell, who would go on to an incredible career in music (above).

We would also talk about John’s favorite jazz guitarists, one of which was American jazz guitarist, George Barnes, who it seems most people have forgotten about these days.

George Barnes, Plays So Good

George Barnes was the first person to make a record on an electric guitar, in 1938, and 40 years later when Plays So Good was released Mr. Barnes was in top form.

I played back Plays So Good with my Ortofon SPU Classic GM MkII stereo phono cartridge on the Woody SPU tonearm.

This is a terrific album recorded live at Bimbos 365 Club in San Francisco, and has that excitement and interplay of musicians that comes so easily to live recordings.

Concord Jazz, CJ-67, Vinyl, LP, 1978, Jazz, Swing.

If you love jazz and jazz guitar, you’ll definitely want to add some George Barnes to your collection, his playing is fantastic. The recording is a very good example of a live recording with excellent natural sounding sonics.

As I mentioned in my 100 Men and a Girl post, I’ve been doing some background “research” on Leopold Stokowski in preparation for the upcoming Duelund & Stokowski Altec project, where we’ll be building some external crossovers for my vintage Altec loudspeakers that were once owned by Mr. Stokowski, exclusively using Frederik’s new Duelund Coherent Audio tinned-copper components. Exciting!

While doing my research, I came across the the 1947 feature film Carnegie Hallthat features Mr. Stokowski playing himself as central role in the movie.

This is an excellent movie that I think any music lover will enjoy.

The plot is about the life of Nora Ryan, an Irish immigrant – there’s Irish immigrant heritage in my bloodline, so I could relate – who arrives in America as a child as Carnegie Hall opens in 1891.

Nora’s Mom works in Carnegie Hall, and she grows up as a child around the musicians and conductors that perform there, eventually working there herself as a janitor.

Nora’s life becomes intertwined with the musicians that perform in Carnegie Hall, and she eventually marries a musician who performs there.

When her husband dies in untimely accident, Nora raises her son as a single Mom working in Carnegie Hall, using it as the equivalent of a private music school for her young son.

Well I should stop there so I don’t spoil the fun for you, but consider this a highly recommended movie that was recorded with vintage Western Electric recording gear.

Musical guests include Walter Damrosch (conductor), Jascha Heifetz (violinist), Harry James (trumpeter), Vaughn Monroe (band leader), Jan Peerce (vocalist), Gregor Piatigorsky (cellist), Ezio Pinza (vocalist), Lily Pons (vocalist), Fritz Reiner (conductor), Artur Rodziński (conductor), Arthur Rubinstein (pianist), Risë Stevens (vocalist), Bruno Walter (conductor), the New York Philharmonic Quintet, and of course Leopold Stokowski, who plays a brief but central role in the movie.

Music for All of Us, by Leopold Stokowski.

The next thing I want to tell you about is Leopold Stokowski’s book, Music For All Of Us. 

Hardcover, 340 pages, published in 1943 by Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0781292263.

To briefly quote the back cover, “Leopold Stokowski is a naturalized American citizen of Polish origin. He was educated at the Royal College in London and continued his studies in Paris and Munich … His influence on music in motion pictures has been revolutionary, symbolized by the controversial film, Fantasia.”

“… Mr. Stokowski explains the architecture of music; tone, rhythm, and melody …”

Inside the front jacket it says, “Mr. Stokowski explains the architecture of music; tone, rhythm, and melody; reflection and absorption; counter rhythm, overtones, and tone color …”

“… chapters on music in the movies, music in television, and the reproduction of recorded and broadcast music … are in great part the fruit of Mr. Stokowski’s own research …”

Inside the back cover it says, “… chapters on music in the movies, music in television, and the reproduction of recorded and broadcast music … are in great part the fruit of Mr. Stokowski’s own research, and present an exciting preview of musical possibilities yet to be realized.”

Let me just say that this book will blow your mind, and it includes depths of insight into music, recording, music for movies, and enjoying music that are extraordinary! Highly recommended!

As you know I’ve been having a ball with vintage Altec loudspeakers, like my professional Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers (above), or my Stokowski A7-like Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers (below).

Stokowski Altec A7’s

The A5’s are professional loudspeakers used for smaller movie theaters and auditoriums that I’ve adapted to home use with new crossovers, and the Stokowski A7’s are an example of a professional Voice of the Theatre style of Altec loudspeaker built for Mr. Stokowski’s home use.

One thing I’ve been wanting to explore is the vintage Altec loudspeakers that were specifically designed for home use, and how they compare to the pro-style Voice of the Theatre professional loudspeakers.

Vintage Altec 832A Corona corner horn loudspeakers.

After doing a bit of research, I decided on a pair of vintage Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers that were for sale from LA Jazz Audio.

These vintage Altec Corona loudspeakers are corner horns (think Klipschorn), with 803A bass drivers (1947-1958), 802D compression drivers (1957-1972), 811B HF horns, N800E crossovers, that as I understand it were built in 1957.

Altec had the cabinets built by Glen Furniture of California to provide the home listener with stylish furniture quality loudspeakers.

When I saw this pair of vintage Altec Corona loudspeakers for sale at LA Jazz Audio, I was reminded of what Keith Aschenbrenner of Auditorium 23 told me a few years ago, that the 803A Altec driver was one of his all-time favorite low-frequency drivers.

Altec recommended the 803A drivers over the 515B low-frequency drivers like I have in my A5’s for smaller venues and for home systems, as they had more presence.

The Corona’s are on their way from LA Jazz Audio to me, and should be here on Thursday this coming week, if everything goes to plan.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 10:44 am
Jan 212018
 

It’s crazy, I thought I’d have 9 or 10 hours more every day to get things done after retiring from my day job at the end of December, but that hasn’t happened.

If anything I’ve been busier than ever and the days whiz by, and before I know it the day is over! How can that be?

One of the things I have been having fun doing is running down records that I’ve been wanting to get my hands on, and I’ve found Discogs to be an incredibly handy resource to do that.

Discogs opens up a worldwide market for finding records, and pretty much you can find anything you want in any condition you are willing to pay for if you exercise a little patience. Highly recommended.

Usually my purchases from Discogs run less than $20 USD, for records in near mint condition.

One of my goals has been to build my collection of music by guitar players, first because I love listening to people playing the guitar, and secondly listening to records by guitar players keeps me motivated to practice playing my own guitars, in hopes that I’ll improve my own playing.

Larry Coryell & Emily Remler ‎– Together. I love this album! Sadly, both Larry & Emily are no longer with us. RIP.

First up is Together by jazz guitarists Larry Coryell (April 2, 1943 – February 19, 2017) and Emily Remler (September 18, 1957 – May 4, 1990), both sadly deceased now.

Together was released in 1985 on the Concord Jazz label, and proudly features the words “A Digital Recording” on the front cover.

Concord Jazz ‎– CJ-289, Vinyl, LP, USA, 1985, Jazz, Post Bop.

The fact that it was a digital recording put me off at first, but it turns out that I needn’t have been concerned, as this is a great sounding record in spite of its digital origins.

Thorens TD 124 with Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103.

On my Thorens TD 124 with the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 the overall presentation was warm and inviting, with beautiful tone and nuance, and the musical interplay of post bop jazz between Larry and Emily is sublime.

Improvising: My Life in Music (Includes Audio CD) by Larry Coryell.

Together inspired me to get Larry’s autobiography Improvising, which I just started reading, and is an easy recommendation for those of interested in guitarists and the life of Larry Coryell.

By the way, check out my new page here at Jeff’s Place, The Bookshelfwhich lists some recommendable books about audio and music.

Friends John La Chapelle (left) & Larry Coryell (right) playing jazz. Photo by Dr. Kannan Krishnaswami.

Larry grew up where I live, and I had the good fortune to study guitar with the gentleman who taught him how to play jazz guitar way back when, John La Chapelle, a marvelous human being, a fantastic jazz guitarist, and a friend that I got to spend far too little time with before he passed.

That’s Larry and John in the photo above playing some songs together in a concert for us locals some years ago, and it was a magical night of superb jazz!

Anyways, if you run across Together by Larry Coryell and Emily Remler be sure to snatch it up, you won’t be sorry, it’s a great record of guitar jazz that quickly became a favorite of mine.

Ted Greene’s “Solo Guitar” album is an important milestone in guitar jazz.

Another treasure I found on Discogs was the Ted Greene album Solo Guitar. 

Professional Music Products ‎– A-5010; 1977; Jazz.

Ted Green (September 26, 1946 -July 25, 2005) was a remarkable jazz fingerstyle guitarist, studio musician, author of important books on guitar playing, math whiz, and guitar instructor, but chances are you may never have heard of him.

Discogs mistakenly refers to Solo Guitar as “acoustic” jazz, but it is not. Rather, Ted Green played a highly modified Fender Telecaster that rather amazingly rivals any classic jazz box like the Gibson L-5 for tone.

This is a wonderful album of solo guitar jazz and is well recorded (mastered by Bernie Grundman), and I highly recommend it.

Discogs says, “Two different covers exist with same catalog number and same matrix etching,” so don’t let the cover throw you if you see one different that the one pictured above.

Ok, that’s all for now!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 8:21 am