Jeff

Apr 152018
 

After a couple cups of coffee this morning, I sat down and practiced my fingerstyle guitar lesson for about an hour.

I’m enjoying working my way through a beginning fingerstyle guitar course book, in hopes that I’ll become a better guitar player (it wouldn’t take much! 😉 ).

Collings short scale OM cutaway is a wonderful fingerstyle guitar.

One of my goals in retirement has been to learn to play my guitar passably well. I’ve wanted to learn to play the guitar well for most of my life, but it seems that each time I start making some real progress I get knocked back close to ground zero due to some life event intervening. But I’m patient, and a bit stubborn that way, as once I’ve made up my mind to do something I usually keep chipping away at the goal until I’m satisfied with my progress.

I’ve been rememorizing the movable jazz chord forms, and I’m back up to the Dominant 9ths. I’ve also been working on rememorizing all the movable Major scale forms at every position on the neck, and have successfully memorized the position of every note on the guitar fretboard. I’m making progress on my knowledge and technique, and it feels good to be back at it.

Learning to play a musical instrument, even if you’re not great at it, like me, is a great way to get a feel for what music is all about, and have some fun.

I’ve learned to play a few old standards in jazz chord melody style (hard), some country (easy), and some fingerstyle (in between). They’re all fun to play.

Different instruments really complement different musical styles, and the Collings short scale OM cutaway is amazing for fingerstyle guitar, and works pretty well in a pinch for jazz chord melody style too, but not nearly as well as the Gibson L5 CES jazz guitar that my buddy Ron Barbee let me play a while back. That’s the archtop jazz guitar of my dreams!

The Gibson Advanced Jumbo (below left) is fantastic on country and blues, and the Waterloo (far right) is a great little guitar for blues, and works well at fingerstyle too, as long as you don’t get so far down the neck as to need a cutaway.

Gibson Advanced Jumbo (left), Collings OM2C (middle), and Collings Waterloo WL-14L (right).

Audio is a little bit like guitars, in that there are certain “instruments” that are classics for a particular use or sound.

Garrard idler drive turntables, Thorens TD124 turntables, Ortofon SPU phonograph cartridges, Altec and Tannoy loudspeakers, vintage vacuum tube electronics, and tinned-copper cables, for example, are all classic “instruments” that have very characteristic performance that tends to emphasize the musicality of recordings, while still performing admirably in audiophile “sonic” terms.

They do a really nice job of making recorded music feel & sound real to me, which is of course why I like them, and why I have a lot of those components in my four home hifi rigs.

Classic Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers.

Take for example, my refugees from a movie theatre, the classic Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers (above) that I have in my video / music system.

You would expect the A5’s to be fantastic for a video system, and they are. They give movies an eerily “real” feel that makes them come alive in ways I still marvel at. For domestic use they need new crossovers to perform nicely with the absence of a movie screen in front of them, and to adapt them to smaller rooms. My favorites are Hiraga-inspired crossovers with an L-pad on the HF circuit to aid in blending in the HF horn to your preferences.

You hear people say, “You have to use Altec Voice of the Theatre loudspeaker’s in big rooms!”, which is complete BS, as they work astonishingly well even in small rooms, outperforming nearly any small monitor loudspeaker you care to mention.

Altec 832A loudspeakers.

Another thing Altec’s do really well, is make digital sources sound like music. I’m not really sure why Altec’s are so flattering to digital sources, but they are, and they don’t have to be expensive or exotic digital sources to make music fun.

Take for example, my 60 year old vintage Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers, that even with their stock crossovers sound remarkably musical streaming Jazz24 from my iMac to my Paradisea+ USB DAC in my bedroom system.

In fact they sound so good in this context that my desire to replace the stock crossovers with Hiraga-style crossovers has almost completely vanished. I am content with them as they are for the way I’m using them.

Almarro A205A powering the vintage Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers.

The combination of the Altec 832A Corona’s with a digital front end, Almarro A205A integrated amp, and Duelund cabling, gives me goosebumps from their beautiful, colorful, and timbrally realistic presentation of the music during those sleepy-time listening sessions.

There’s been more than a few nights I got so caught up in the Altec’s musicality that I didn’t get nearly as much sleep as I wanted, while drifting in and out of bliss during the night while listening, and refusing to shut down the system! There’s nothing like going deep down the rabbit hole of audio nerd territory, but what fun!

Granted, if I were to set them up in a different context, with the addition of an analog front end in a dedicated music listening room, I’d definitely go for the Hiraga-style crossovers that would allow me to fine-tune their overall balance to get the best out of the analog source. But in the context I’m using them in, a bedroom system, I am absolutely thrilled with their musically satisfying performance!

Just like there’s a guitar that is well suited for a particular style of music, there’s a particular vacuum tube that will be well suited to a particular amplifier, system balance, and an individual’s personal tastes.

I’m still reeling from how much an improvement the fresh set of GE 6L6GC power tubes in my vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers made to overall musicality, and by how much they outperformed the new production Russian manufactured Tung-Sol 6L6GC STR tubes, which have received wide praise in other contexts.

NOS GE 6L6GC vacuum tubes.

As power tubes age it’s easy to assign their degrading sonics to other factors, particularly if you make lots of system changes along the way, like I do for my audio reviewing gig.

While I think the GE 6L6GC tubes are the apogee of musical performance for my vintage MC30 monaural amplifiers, the Tung-Sol 6L6GC STR tubes can sound very good in amplifiers voiced to complement them, as Pete Riggle has reminded me, as is the case with Kara Chaffee’s new Super 40 monaural amplifiers that really do sound super.

Billie Holiday ‎– Lady Sings The Blues.

I just picked up the reissue of Billie Holiday’s Lady Sings the Blues from Discogs, which happens to have “Strange Fruit” on it, which was voted the “greatest jazz vocal of all time” by the listeners of Jazz24.

Verve Records ‎– MGV-8099, Universal Music Catalogue ‎– 0600753458877, Series: Back To Black, Clef Series; Vinyl, LP, Album, Reissue, Remastered, 180 gram. Genre: Jazz, Blues

I haven’t heard an original version of this important Billie Holiday album, but this particular reissue is possibly the worst sounding reissue I’ve ever heard. It sounds noisy, has weird phasey things going on, and is just generally awful from a sonic standpoint. It’s great and important music though, so I hope someone remasters this album with the loving care it deserves.

I don’t recommend this version, and in fact it was so awful that I couldn’t even get through one side of it before wanting to shut it off. That was with the Tung-Sol 6L6GC STR tubes.

After I put the fresh GE’s into the MC30’s, I put this album back on just for kicks, and guess what, it was transformed in a way that allowed me to listen to it all the way through and enjoy it. The album pretty much still sucked sonically, but not so much that I couldn’t listen to it and enjoy the music. Still though, I don’t recommend this remastered version. If you know of a version of this album that is nicely done, be sure to let me know!

The GE 6L6GC’s open up a world of musicality in my MC30’s that allows for a lot more albums to be musically satisfying, instead of just a few really well recorded albums, like the Tung-Sol 6L6GC STR’s did in the MC30’s.

Picking the right component for the right use makes a huge difference for a given application for attaining a musically satisfying presentation.

Once you’ve found a combination of hifi gear that really works for you, enabling you to enjoy the expanse of your music library, leave well enough alone and build your music collection instead.

That’s good advice, even if I don’t follow it!

Yves Beauvais

I’ve been a big fan of the fine work Yves Beauvais does for his Vintage Vacuum Audio (not to mention the many fine record albums he’s produced), and I bought my restored MC30 & MC225 amplifiers from Yves.

I’ve really wanted to buy a restored Eico HF-81 from Yves too, but my timing is never quite right, and they’re gone before I can pull the trigger.

I am patiently watching and waiting for another nice example of an Eico HF-81 to show up, and maybe my timing and cash flow at the moment will be a little better so I’ll be able to buy it.

I want one bad!

Restored Eico HF81

In case you don’t know, Yves was nominated for a grammy for his work producing record albums, and if you want to be completely blown away, look up Yves discography on Discogs so you can see the vast number of albums he’s produced and supervised.

Not only does Yves know vacuum tube audio gear inside and out, it’s the same for music, which is probably why his restorations are so unfailingly musical.

Ok, I’m going to go practice my guitar a little more and listen to some records, but let me close with these words of wisdom from Yves’ website:

“While the selection and fine tuning of exhilarating-sounding vintage audio equipment is an exciting, often life-long search, let’s not forget it’s ultimately the music that matters — mankind’s mysterious mastery of making air move in esthetically & emotionally thrilling ways. Most importantly, remember to ask yourself the age-old question: Can I dance to it?”

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

 Posted by at 1:58 pm
Apr 142018
 

Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR (left), GE 6L6GC (right).

I decided to bite the bullet and order two matched pairs of the increasingly rare & expensive NOS GE 6L6GC’s for my vintage MC30 monaural amps, so I could compare the fresh new GE’s to the new production Tung-Sol 6L6GC STR’s.

MC30 with Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR’s.

I have found certain aspects of the Tung-Sol’s musical & sonic performance to be very endearing, like their gorgeous mid-range and spooky presence, but I also found that even with more time they were not smoothing out to the extent that I like (and need) in the upper mid-range and high-frequencies to be a good match to my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers.

Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeaker.

The result was there was too much emphasis on surface noise and sibilance with the Tung-Sol 6L6GC STR, except on those few extremely well recorded LP’s, to make listening to music as rewarding as I know it can be.

In order to make the Tung-Sol’s work, I pretty much came to the conclusion I would have to put some really mellow & warm caps in the MC30’s (and maybe the MX110Z too) to get the sort of tonal balance that sounded like real music does.

As you know, I’m not opposed to rolling caps, and if fact I enjoy it quite a lot, but I’d rather just plug in a set of tubes that will provide the musicality that I know my MC30’s & Westminster’s are capable of.

GE 6L6GC vacuum tubes in vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifier.

I ordered my GE 6L6GC’s from the husband and wife team, Tyler and Chelsea, at TC Tubes, and they arrived today by USPS. (Hint: they have two matched pairs of the GE’s left, tell them Jeff sent you).

The Johnny Smith Foursome – Volume II – on Roost.

I’ve been on a tear ordering from Discogs lately, and one of those albums was the The Johnny Smith Foursome Volume II on Roost (above).

I’m a huge Johnny Smith fan, and I adore the tone Johnny Smith got from his Gibson, being rich, warm, and achingly beautiful.

Royal Roost’s Johnny Smith Foursome “Volume II” on the CTC Garrard 301.

Except that with the Tung-Sol 6L6GC STR vacuum tubes Johnny’s Gibson sounded too lean, with the surface noise of my “very good” rated album sounding excessive, and the Tung-Sol’s just robbed Volume II of the “big tone” I knew it was capable of.

NOS GE 6L6GC vacuum tubes.

I put the GE 6L6GC’s in the MC30’s, and even cold out of the box with no time on them at all they sounded fantastic on Volume II, with the beautiful tone of Johnny’s Gibson coming through in spades. I could still hear the surface noise of my less than pristine copy of the Volume II, but it was now in an acceptable range that wasn’t a distraction from the music.

I didn’t realize how tired my old GE’s were before they let go, and putting in a fresh set is rather revelatory in how good they sound compared to anything else in my experience.

The fresh GE 6L6GC’s absolutely crushed the new production Tung-Sol 6L6GC STR’s, and it wasn’t even close.

Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR (left), GE 6L6GC (right).

Ok, that’s not the result that many of us were hoping for, that the Tung-Sol’s would be able to go toe-to-toe with the GE’s.

In fact, the disparity was so huge between fresh GE’s and the new production Tung Sol’s that it made me kind of sad, because that means as the GE’s run out that few will be able to hear the level of musicality it brings to the MC30’s.

As far as I know, there’s no new production 6L6GC vacuum tubes that can even come close to the level of musicality the GE’s are capable of.

I’m not sure why new production tubes like these Tung-Sol’s can’t come any closer to those fine old vintage GE 6L6GC’s.

Actually, there’s probably quite a few reasons current production don’t sound as good as these GE’s, with probably the first reason being that manufacturers aren’t actually listening to these new production designs long enough during the design phase to get the design sorted out enough to compete with the NOS tubes like the GE’s.

Richard & Sue at Sophia Electric are among the exceptional few that seem to be able to coax that level of vintage tube musicality out of new production tubes, but as far as I know they’re not in the 6L6GC business or plan to be.

The Sophia Electric Aqua 274B rectifier is in that rare category of a new production rectifier that is beautifully & compellingly musical, for sure, but there is no blue-glass ST bottle-shaped 6L6GC from Sophia in the works either now or in the future, unfortunately.

All I can say is that you better get your GE 6L6GC’s while you can, because once they’re gone it’ll be “the day the music died” in the world of 6L6GC vacuum tubes.

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

 Posted by at 1:29 pm
Apr 072018
 

My favorite power tube for my vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers have been the gray plate GE 6L6GC’s.

Vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifier with GE 6L6GC power tubes.

The GE’s provided a warm, rich, and naturally musical presentation that even the highly esteemed black plate RCA 6L6GC’s had to bow down to.

For my hot-rodded MC30’s the GE’s take musicality to another level, but they are getting expensive at around $90 USD each!

HARMA cryo’d 5881 from Watford Valves.

When my GE 6L6GC’s finally died a week or so ago, I put in some HARMA 5881 cryo’d valves from Watford Valves in the UK that I bought to try in my Leben CS-600 integrated amplifier way back when.

I don’t recommend you substitute 5881’s into an amp designed for 6L6GC’s unless you are sure the amps don’t exceed the ratings of the 5881, as a lot of modern amps calling for a 6L6GC tube will exceed 5881 ratings, which can cause them overheat or arc over.

Given I didn’t have any other 6L6GC’s to try at the time, I went with the 5881’s until some new tubes arrived.

The HARMA cryo’d 5881’s actually sounded quite a lot like the GE 6L6GC’s in the mid-range to me on first listen, but after a couple of albums I became aware that they lacked the beautiful smoothness in the high-frequencies that the GE’s have in spades.

I decided to look over the less expensive new production 6L6GC’s out there to see if there was anything having a reputation of a smooth & warm tonal balance similar to the GE’s.

Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR (left), GE 6L6GC (right).

As I was reading up on the current crop of 6L6GC’s, the Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR kept popping up as being a smooth & warm sounding tube with a similar tonal balance to the GE’s.

Tung-Sol says their 6L6GC-STR’s “… are clones of the legendary Philips 6L6GC STR …” which I haven’t had any experience with.

The 6L6GC-STR has a black anode coating which is supposed to give it “a nice smooth, warm sound”.

I ordered two matched pairs ($44.50 per matched pair) of the Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR’s from Jim McShane, who is one of my favorite tube suppliers on Planet Earth.

To put a little perspective on price, the quad of Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR’s sell for less than the price of a single NOS GE 6L6GC, so from a cost perspective they’re a bargain if they perform similarly to the GE’s.

Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR’s in my MC30.

I didn’t waste any time pulling out the 5881’s and putting the Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR’s in their place.

MC30 with Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR’s.

I proceeded to warm up the MC30’s while listening to a little NPR on the MX110Z’s FM tuner for a little bit.

It takes about an hour for MC30’s to warm up to the point where they’re at their musical & sonic best, but I couldn’t stand waiting that long, so after about 10 minutes I put Gillian Welch’s & David Rawling’s The Harrow & The Harvest on the Garrard and let ‘er spin!

The Harrow & The Harvest

Gillian Welch’s & David Rawling’s “The Harrow & The Harvest”.

I was immediately impressed with the Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR’s in my MC30s, and the little buggers gave me goosebumps right off the bat with the way they portrayed Gillian’s & David’s vocals, with a sense of  immediacy & intimacy that I found very alluring.

It’s always a little dangerous to make statements based on first impressions, especially when the Mac’s aren’t even fully warmed up yet as I’m listening, and the tubes have zero hours on them, but I’m really liking what I’m hearing from these Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR’s in my MC30s.

Fleetwood Mac “Black Magic Woman”.

When I was up visiting my buddy Chad at Lake Chelan in Washington State, he played Fleetwood Mac’s Black Magic Woman for me.

I was immediately smitten and ordered a copy of Black Magic Woman of my own from Discogs as soon as I got home!

As luck would have it, my order of Black Magic Woman from Discogs arrived at the same time as the Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR’s, so I got to give it a listen today.

Black Magic Woman

Black Magic Woman was recorded back when Fleetwood Mac was a blues-rock band, before they morphed into the rock & roll band of later times with the addition of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. This might very well be my favorite Fleetwood Mac album.

Black Magic Woman on the CTC Garrard.

My buddy Chad has superb taste in rock & roll music, and Fleetwood Mac’s Black Magic Woman is a must have if you love blues and rock & roll!

Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR power tubes in the MC30.

But I digress, as this post is supposed to be about the Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR’s!

I really like the Tung-Sol’s. They come across as naturally musical, warm and smooth, transparent and nuanced, with a nice sense of the musicians’ touch on the instruments. and as I mentioned earlier, they have a really nice way with vocals.

I don’t think these Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR’s sound like the GE 6L6GC’s exactly, but they’re pretty much in the same league, and in some ways are better, based on my very preliminary listening impressions.

The Tung-Sol’s have more clarity & nuance than the GE’s, and are to the warmer & smoother side of life, like the GE’s. The Tung-Sol’s have an electrifying sense of presence about them that makes music sound exciting, which I like a lot.

The high-frequencies are smoother than the 5881’s, perhaps not as smooth as the GE’s, but more nuanced.

Time will tell, as they’re still brand new out of their boxes, but I like them a lot, and if they smooth out a bit in the upper mid-range & highs, they may very well turn out to be a desirable alternative to expensive NOS GE 6L6GC’s.

I’ll report back as the Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR tubes get some more run-in time on them.

Day 2 Update

It’s Day 2 with the Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR tubes in my vintage MC30 monaural amplifiers. I didn’t have time to get a lot more hours in on them, probably only about 7 hours more as I’m writing this.

I put back on the The Harrow & The Harvest for some listening as a baseline, and I continue to be impressed by the mid-range performance of the Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR’s. They have really nice mid-range tone, with instrumental timbre that sounds very lifelike, and a very interesting acoustic space that wraps around voices and instruments to give them a sort of spooky & spacious presentation.

One thing that has improved noticeably even in this short amount of time is the Tung-Sol’s ability to convey tempos (and changes in tempos), and an increasingly dynamic prowess that makes melody lines become more exciting and engaging.

The Tung-Sol’s upper mid-range sounds a little peaky & edgy in places on a number of albums I’ve listened to that sounded natural with the GE’s (some vocals and muted trumpets, for example).

I’d like to hear a little more smoothness in the upper mid-range out of the Tung-Sol’s, so hopefully they’ll smooth out with more run-in time, as that’s the only significant criticism I have of them at this point.

With that little bit of edginess as an exception, the Tung-Sol’s are right in there in overall performance with the black plate RCA 6L6GC’S and the gray plate GE 6L6GC’s, which are arguably the cream of the NOS crop of 6L6GC’s.

I should say that I’ve made enough changes to the Westminster system lately that it’s possible that the slight upper mid-range edginess/dryness I’m hearing could be due to one of those changes rather than the Tung-Sol’s, so a little investigation is in order to check out that possibility.

More to come …

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

 Posted by at 2:16 pm
Apr 012018
 

This last week was really a nice one of relaxation and getting out in nature with my friend Chad at his cabin on the shore of Lake Chelan in Washington State.

Jeff visiting Chad at Lake Chelan in Washington State.

We got in a bike ride in the village of Chelan, and did some sightseeing around the lake.

Chad (left), Jeff (right)

Lake Chelan.

There were deer everywhere, and at least one coyote around yipping. The deer showed little fear of people, and would get within about 10 feet of us while grazing. If you got closer than that they would look up at you, then move off a couple of feet. I never saw one run.

Deer at Lake Chelan.

This is of course an audio & music blog, so you might guess we spent some time listening to music, and we did!

Chad’s cabin system at Lake Chelan.

We listened to music on Chad’s cabin system, composed of Omega loudspeakers, an Almarro A205A Mk II integrated amplifier, and a Fi phono stage. I forget what turntable Chad has, but it is a relatively high-end Japanese turntable that he bought in Japan while living in South Korea.

What I found particularly intriguing was the cartridge he had on the turntable, an Audio-Technica 1001. This cartridge sells for only $30 USD and it sounded fantastic in the context of the rest of his audio system, being both naturally musical, having a large sense of space, and made listening to music a lot of fun.

Fleetwood Mac, Black Magic Woman (1971).

Chad has a large collection of vintage rock & roll LPs and we had a ball listening to them on this system.

One of my favorites was Fleetwood Mac’s Black Magic Woman double LP from 1971 (above), when they were still a blues band, before they would morph into the rock band that most think of as Fleetwood Mac. I was so impressed I ordered a copy from Discogs as soon as I got home.

Jethro Tull, Stand Up, 1969.

Another one I really enjoyed was Jethro Tull’s Stand Up from 1969, which I also ordered from Discogs as soon as I got home from Lake Chelan.

Johnny Smith Trio, Favorites, Roost Records, 1959.

While I am on the topic of albums, I want to tell you about another terrific album, which my buddy Doc Leo bought for me while in Vegas attending a meeting on robotic surgical techniques.

Leo knows I am a huge fan of jazz guitarist Johnny Smith, and picked up a copy of the Johnny Smith Trio’s Favorites for me, which is a fantastic album! Thank you Leo, you’re awesome!

I might mention that all three of these records would be excellent candidates for premium reissues, just in case the other Chad that I know, Chad Kassem, happens to read this. Hint, hint.

Previews of Coming Attractions!

Now I want to give you a status on what’s coming up here at Jeff’s Place on the gear front in the coming months.

Soundsmith

First I want to mention Peter Lederman of Soundsmith, who I had a delightful conversation on the phone with yesterday. Besides having a nice personality, Peter may very well be the Albert Einstein of audio, and I was extremely impressed with his immense depth and breadth of knowledge of all things audio.

Peter builds a variety of phonograph cartridges tailored to specific applications, phono preamplifiers, a variety of accessories, loudspeakers, strain gauge preamplifiers, amplifiers, a cartridge rebuilding / retipping service, and restoration & repairs of classic audio gear.

Peter mentioned to me that he’s got 40 years of experience with vintage McIntosh MX110’s (and lots of others), so if you have an MX110Z that needs a refresh you now have another expert option.

I get quite a few emails asking for a recommendation of a relatively affordable phonograph cartridge that is warm, dimensional, musical, and has high output so you don’t have to use an expensive step-up transformer with it.

I really didn’t know how to answer that sort of inquiry, but I thought I’d do a bit of research on the topic, which was what led me to Peter and his Soundsmith phonograph cartridges.

I asked Peter if he could recommend a cartridge from his line that matched the above criteria, and in fact Peter recommended two, the new Zephyr MK III ($1500 USD), and the new Carmen Mk II ($1000 USD), neither of which have been reviewed in their latest versions.

Peter is going to send me both cartridges to write about for Positive Feedback, and which I’ll be blogging about here until the feature articles are ready for Positive Feedback.

Peter is also going to send his MMP3 phono preamp ($800 USD) to try, which he says is a high-performance phono preamp for those who don’t have one already and are on a budget.

I’ll tell you how it compares to the phono preamp in my vintage McIntosh MX110Z, as well as my Leben RS30-EQ phono pre.

Duelund Coherent Audio

There’s two Duelund projects coming up, the first being crossovers made exclusively of Duelund tinned-copper components for my vintage Stokowski Altec A7 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers, and the second being a new Duelund DCA12GA tinned-copper cable that will be suitable for making power cords. I don’t have a definite timeline for either of those yet, but they are in the works.

Pete Riggle Audio Engineering

Pete is working on an adjustable crossover for vintage Altec domestic loudspeakers that crossover at 800Hz, like my 832A Corona’s, and Valencia’s, for example.

Pete’s working on them now, and it looks like a really deluxe effort from what I’ve seen when visiting Pete. I don’t have a definite timeline for the crossovers yet, but they are in the works.

Nelson Pass First Watt SIT 3

Nelson Pass has been working on his First Watt SIT 3 power amplifier for a while now, and says there will be one coming my way right after the Axpona show in a couple of weeks.

It’s rumored to be Nelson’s best design yet, which is very intriguing for me, because I’ve thought all of Nelson’s designs I have heard have been impressive over the years. I owned Nelson’s Aleph 3 many years ago and loved it!

The First Watt SIT 3 is also expected to be affordable, which makes it particularly exciting for an old retired geezer on a fixed income like me!

I’m feeling like I’m forgetting to tell you about something, but don’t remember what it is. I’ll update this post if the lightbulb goes on.

Until then, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 12:17 pm
Mar 252018
 

Have you ever had one of those periods of time where everything goes wrong? I’m in one of those periods now. Usually it seems like things go astray in triplets, for same strange reason.

Usually, I sigh with relief after the third mishap, because things are about to get better, but this time it appears the pattern is sets of swing triplets (jazz joke)!

I have a couple of audio pals coming over for a listening sessions today, so of course it had to precede that, causing a little upset to the really nice musical performance I had dialed in for the Westminster music system and the vintage Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre system (both above) that I use for music and video.

Fortunately the vintage Altec A7 Voice of the Theatre system and vintage Altec Corona 832A system are working fine at the moment! Fingers crossed!

To kick off “the witching hour” the Auditorium 23 SUT that I use for my Denon DL-103 & Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 developed a problem with one channel (in the photo above on the middle shelf to the right, behind the video controls).

I’m not sure what is going on with it, so will have to try to track that down in hopes I’ll be able to salvage it.

No worries I thought, I’ll just press into service my vintage Shure V15 III with a NOS VN35MR stylus, as it has enough output to work without a SUT.

Vintage Shure V15 III with VN35MR stylus.

Well, I was reminded that somehow the cantilever got broke off the VN35MR stylus, and while I was debating whether I should proceed with the needed $300 repair of the VN35MR stylus, I pressed into service a $25 generic stylus I had for emergencies.

I tried balancing the generic stylus out with different interconnects (Duelund DCA20GA), and different tubes (Mullard) in the Leben RS30EQ phono preamplifier, all to no avail, as it just didn’t sound all that great no matter what I did. Sigh.

Pete Riggle (bless him!) loaned me a Shure M97xE cartridge to try, which is a highly praised budget cartridge ($100 USD).

I use the Shure V15 III & stylus with a Yamamoto headshell and Western Electric WE24GA headshell leads, which makes for a really nice combination.

While taking the Shure V15 III off the Yamamoto headshell, two of the WE24GA headshell leads clips broke off the wires, and I didn’t have any extra Audiosilente clips (my faves) to solder on in place of them, so I pressed into service my DIY Art of Tone 22GA headshell leads, which are really good sounding headshell leads too.

Shure M97xE on my Thorens TD124.

After getting that done, I auditioned a few albums with the Shure M97xE cartridge, and it was a little better than the Shure V15 III with a generic stylus, but it was nothing to write home about, sounding inoffensive and moderately pleasant, but veiled, with a lot of musical nuance gone missing.

But at least the vintage Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre system was up and running for vinyl replay for a little afternoon listening session.

Quite a lot of you have asked me for recommendations of a moderately priced “classically analog” phonograph cartridge, that is smooth, to the warm side, with timbral realism, a spacious presentation with a natural amount detail, and high enough output so you don’t have to use it with an expensive an expensive SUT.

That’s a tall order for a miraculous list of cartridge attributes, but I’m looking into it and will report back on what I find out.

Now that the vintage Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre system was playing analog in acceptable fashion, it was time to make sure the main music system with my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE’s was in a decent state of tune for my visitors.

As part of the witching hour, a pair of my favorite GE 6L6GC gray plate power tubes in one of my vintage McIntosh MC30’s went tits up … argh!

5881 HARMA cryo’d tubes from Watford valves.

What to do? After checking my tube stash, I realized I didn’t have any GE backups, so I ordered some, and then pressed into service a quad of 5881 HARMA cryo’d tubes from Watford Valves, a great UK outfit who serves both musicians and audio enthusiasts.

As a note of caution, one shouldn’t sub in 5881’s into an amp designed for 6L6GC’s unless you are sure the amps don’t exceed the ratings of the 5881, as a lot of modern amps calling for a 6L6GC tube will exceed 5881 ratings, which can cause them overheat or arc over.

I need to double check into the MC30’s for that, but given they were originally spec’d for 1614 vacuum tubes I think the 5811’s will be fine, so for today’s listening session I’m throwing caution to the wind and using them, or as we used to say when racing motocross, “When in doubt gas it”.

In a quick listening session the HARMA 5881’s sounded almost identical (!) to my favored NOS GE 6L6GC gray plate tubes, which was a really nice surprise, so if it turns out they’re safe for use in the MC30’s, they could be a real alternative to the GE’s at half their price. I’ll report back when I have time to make sure about the operating conditions.

MX110Z tube complement.

Well if that wasn’t enough to deal with, the RCA 6U8’s in my vintage McIntosh MX110Z preamplifier spazzed out during “the witching hour”, so I replaced them with NOS GE 6EA8’s in V11, V16, and V17. I think the NOS GE 6EA8’s have more natural tonality than the RCA 6U8’s, so it turned out to be a good swap.

If that wasn’t enough, something went awry with the MPX Stereo indicator light of my MX110Z, as well as the muting switch.

I was able to dial in the performance of the muting switch (there’s an easy adjustment with a screwdriver for that), but my attempts to adjust the MPX Stereo light were only partially successful, so that will take a little more investigation.

Ok, having got all that done with the MX110Z, I then swapped in a pair of shielded Duelund DCA16GA interconnects into the SUT to MX110Z position, which was a nice match to balance out the tone & sound with the tube changes.

Whew! Done in the nick of time! Now it’s time to get the food ready for the arrival of my audio pals, so I’ll report back on the outcomes of addressing the audio “witching hour”!

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

 Posted by at 10:45 am
Mar 212018
 

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been having fun trying different wiring schemes with my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers and their Duelund CAST crossovers, as well as my vintage Altec based systems.

Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeaker.

Tannoy Westminster Royal SE based system:

My living room music system is composed of Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers with outboard Duelund CAST crossovers, combined with vintage McIntosh electronics, and a CTC “Garrard” 301 turntable.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I tried putting Duelund DCA12GA tinned-copper wire in the HF section of the crossovers just to see what would happen.

It’s a bit of a crazy idea to put that big of wire in a HF crossover circuit, but I thought it’d be a fun experiment.

Duelund CAST crossover with DCA12GA added to the HF circuit.

The DCA12GA did some impressive things with sense of recorded space and textures, but I decided it was too much of a good thing. and took out the first length of DCA12GA in the HF circuit and replaced it with the DCA20GA that I was originally using there

Duelund CAST HF crossover circuit with Duelund DCA20GA (lower left) and Duelund DCA12GA (lower right).

The combination of DCA20GA & DCA12GA sounds nice, and as you would expect splits the difference between the big sense of recorded space & textures of the DCA12GA and the smooth & articulate presentation of the HF’s with the DCA20GA, to give a really nice overall presentation musically & sonically.

Intact Audio dual mono SUTs for the Ortofon SPU Classic GM Mk II phonograph cartridge.

The next thing I decided to try was a pair of shielded Duelund DCA26GA interconnects from the Intact Audio dual mono SUTs to my vintage McIntosh MX110Z in place of the shielded pairs of DCA16GA & DCA20GA interconnects I have been experimenting with in that position.

SUTs top view …

The pair of shielded pair of DCA26GA interconnects provided a really nice result in that position, and combined with the HF crossover combo of DCA12GA & DCA20GA, on Gillian Welch’s and David Rawlings’ The Harrow & The Harvest, for example, gave an impressively articulate presentation possessing natural warmth, impressive timbral realism, a real sense of touch upon the guitar strings, and a rather wonderful portrayal of melody, tempo, and harmony, that provided big emotional impact from the music in terms of artistic nuance. A wow moment for sure!

The vintage McIntosh MX110Z has 17 vacuum tubes!

I had a bit of a vacuum tube issue with my vintage McIntosh MX110Z during this trial that confused me for a little bit (left channel was intermittently cutting out). At first I thought it was a wiring issue due to a screwup on my part, until I traced it back to the MX110Z.

MX110Z tube complement.

When you’re dealing with 17 tubes it might seem daunting to figure out what’s going on, but it’s actually not too bad as there’s likely suspects for misbehavior (the 6U8’s are notorious for relatively short life spans compared to the other tubes).

The first thing I did was, one by one, pull each tube out and clean the pins with some CAIG DeoxIT D5, and then reinstall them. Presto, the issue vanished and has not returned! So it was an issue of tube pins not making good contact, an easy fix.

Since I had my stash of CAIG out I also did a quick lube of the volume pot with CAIG F5 fader lube, as it has been getting a bit noisy of late.

Moral of the story: Use a little appropriate CAIG DeoxIT to keep all your connections happy from time-to-time.

The MX110Z tube diversion got me to thinking about doing a little for fun tube rolling with the MX110Z, so I contacted Dale at Radio Electric Supply, my favorite NOS tube purveyor. I might also add that RES’s prices are very fair, and they don’t gouge you price-wise like some NOS tube sellers do.

I ordered a selection of tubes to experiment with: Some GE 6EA8’s (which is a substitute for the 6U8 / 6U8A you find in MX110’s) for use in V16 & V17. They’re supposed to be richer and less bright than the RCA 6U8 black plates that I also ordered, which can make them a nice match to Tannoy’s HF’s. I also ordered an RCA 12AT7/ECC81  black plate & G.E. 12AT7/ECC81 2 mica grey plate to try in V2 for kicks.

Update: Dale at Radio Electric Supply is so awesome, my tube order arrived 2 days after I ordered, by USPS Priority Mail 3-Day, and it was only $9 USD shipping to go all the way across the USA. Kudos to both Dale and USPS!

It was quite literally in the nick of time, as one of RCA 6U8 tubes in V16 & V17 croaked minutes before they arrived. Whew, that was close!

I replaced the RCA 6U8 tubes in V11, V16, and V17 with NOS GE 6EA8’s to be on the safe side, as the 6U8 tubes in those positions have a reputation for going bad.

I’ll report back in another post after I get a little time in on the NOS 6EA8’s and get a handle on their sonics / musicality compared to the RCA 6U8’s.

Ok, to get back on topic, my Westminster’s are sounding freaky good right now with my Duelund DCA tweaks.

Here’s what I’m using in the Westminster Royal SE system right now for wiring:

  • Shielded Duelund DCA26GA interconnects from SUTs to MX110Z.
  • Duelund DCA20GA interconnects from MX110Z to MC30 monaural amplifiers.
  • Duelund DCA12GA speaker cables from MC30 monaural amplifiers to the Duelund CAST external crossovers.
  • Duelund DCA16GA in the LF section of the Duelund CAST external crossovers.
  • Mix of Duelund DCA12GA & DCA20GA in the HF section of the Duelund CAST crossovers, as described above.
  • Western Electric WE16GA Westminster internal wiring connecting the drivers to the external Duelund CAST crossovers (a BIG job to change).

I envision trying the Duelund DCA12GA in the LF crossover in place of the DCA16GA as a next DCA experiment, and then finally replacing the WE16GA Westminster wiring with DCA wiring, but that one’s a big job, so it may be a while.

Vintage Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre based system:

I just updated what I’m using in my A5 based audio-video system HERE if you’re interested in the details.

For the video portion of the system I’m using the following wiring:

  • Belden 8402 microphone cable interconnects to connect the Philips TV to the Leben CS600, and the Leben CS600 to the Oppo, which is providing really glorious “classic theater” sound from the digital front end.

For the analog portion of the system I’m using the following wiring:

  • Shielded Duelund DCA20GA interconnects connect my Auditorium 23 SUT for the Audio MusiKraft Denon DL-103 to the Leben RS30EQ phono preamplifier.
  • Shielded pair of Duelund DCA16GA interconnects connect the RS30EQ to the Leben CS600 integrated amplifier.

For the rest of the system:

  • Duelund DCA16 speaker cables connect the CS600 integrated amplifier to the Altec A5 crossovers.
  • The Altec A5 “Hiraga-inspired” crossovers are wired internally with Western Electric WE16GA.
  • The Altec A5 drivers are wired internally with Western Electric WE16GA.

I’m really happy with the sound I’m getting from my digital front end for video, which sounds huge, articulate, and very well balanced top-to-bottom, producing lots of move “Wow!” moments.

I’m still working on getting the exact HF smoothness that I want on the analog front end. It sounds good, actually, but I still think I can do better.

Altec A5 HF crossovers.

I’m thinking that a combination of Duelund DCA20GA for the HF crossover circuits, and a little tube rolling for the Leben RS30EQ phono preamplifier, are logical next steps.

I’ll keep you posted on those as I proceed.

Vintage Altec 832A Corona Based System:

I have been really enjoying my vintage Altec 832A Corona based bedroom system. The Corona’s fill the room with beautiful jazz in such a fine way that I’m really happy with the results.

The room corners are far enough apart that it’s hard to get a photo of both of the Corona’s in it at the same time!

Even with their wide spacing the Corona’s fill the room with music with no lack of center fill.

I’m just getting started with this system, but the results so far are really encouraging.

Here’s what I’m using for wiring:

  • Locus Design Group Polestar USB interconnect between iMac & Mhdt Lab Paradisea+  USB DAC

Locus Design Group Polestar USB interconnect.

  • Shielded Duelund DCA16GA interconnect between the Paradisea+ USB DAC and Almarro A205A integrated amplifier.

Shielded Duelund DCA16GA interconnects.

  • Duelund DCA16GA speaker cables between the Almarro A205A integrated amp and the Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers.

DCA16GA speaker cables between Almarro A205A and the Altec Corona’s.

I’m just getting started with this Altec 832A Corona based system, but I love what I’m hearing from it!

The most obvious change for the better for the Corona’s would be switching from the stock vintage Altec crossovers to a Hiraga-inspired crossover.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Pete Riggle is working on developing some Hiraga-inspired crossovers optimized for 800 Hz horns like the Corona’s have, as well as many other domestic vintage Altec loudspeakers.

Pete has an uncanny ability to get great sound & musicality out of every pair of loudspeakers he’s developed crossovers for, so I’m thinking his 800 Hz crossover design will be a real asset for vintage domestic Altec owners, just as his A7 & A5 crossovers have been.

Pete’s really got some really great ideas that allow optimizing the crossover to various domestic Altec designs. Pete’s way behind schedule on this project, but I’ll keep you posted on any news as it develops.

Along with crossover upgrades, upgrading the internal wiring of the Corona’s to Duelund DCA would be a big improvement.

My DIY ‘pushback wire’ USB interconnect has outperformed every USB interconnect I’ve tried and it cost less than $10 to build.

I also want to build another Art of Tone tinned-copper USB interconnect for this system like I did for the my Altec A7 “Stokowski” Voice of the Theatre loudspeaker based system that I described HERE. This inexpensive interconnect blows away every other USB interconnect I have, but the little USB connections make it a challenge to solder. It’s well worth the effort though!

I’ll keep you posted on developments as I continue experimenting with the vintage Altec 832A Corona’s based system, it should be fun!

Altec A7 “Stokowski” Voice of the Theatre Based System:

The vintage Altec A7 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers that were made for Leopold Stokowski back when he lived in New York are wondrous things. These are my first Altec loudspeakers, and they turned me into an instant vintage Altec loudspeaker nut!

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

These Altec A7’s have influenced a wave of vintage Altec interest among my audio pals, and for good reason, as they sound wonderful powered by the SPEC RSA-M3 EX integrated amplifier!

Leopold Stokowski VOTTs without grills.

At the moment, I’m using the aforementioned Art of Tone USB interconnect with my Mhdt Havana USB DAC, Belden 8402 microphone cable interconnects from the DAC to the SPEC RSA-M3 EX, and Western Electric WE16GA speaker cables from the SPEC to the Altec’s. It sounds really nice!

These massively historically significant Altec A7 loudspeakers will be the result of by far the most ambitious and exciting project I have on the horizon, the Duelund Coherent Audio & Stokowski Altec Project, that will be exclusively utilizing custom Duelund tinned-copper components to build Hiraga-inspired crossovers for the vintage Altec “Stokowski” A7’s.

If you followed the Duelund-Westminster Crossover Project, you know how much effort goes into producing custom Duelund components, so it takes a while to get all the components built.

Like Pete with his 800 Hz crossover project, Frederick tells me he is also behind schedule on building the components for this project.

Frederik tells me that he is being very careful as he proceeds with building the components, as this will be a world-first showcase of crossovers built exclusively from custom Duelund tinned-copper components!

Ok, I guess that’s it for now. There’s lots of good things coming, so stay tuned!

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

 Posted by at 11:57 am
Mar 182018
 

It’s been a nice weekend of just kicking back, relaxing, and celebrating.

To celebrate my Mom’s majority Irish ancestry that we didn’t know she had until after some recent DNA testing (oral tradition isn’t always accurate), we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday with me cooking a traditional St. Patrick’s Day feast of corned beef, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and a wee bit of Guinness to wash it all down – it turned out to be a good feast!

Dad passed away before we found out about Mom’s Irish ancestry, but he definitely would have enjoyed celebrating it with us!

The Day family has always enjoyed a good time centered around a family meal, humor & laughter, and a little music to create a festive atmosphere, and when you get to be 93 like Mom, it’s all the more reason to celebrate life and family! Cheers!

Mom was looking forward to checking out my 60 year old Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers (same age as me!) that I bought for my bedroom system.

They were a hit with Mom, she really loved the Corona’s looks, the way they sat unobtrusively in the room corners, and the way they filled the room with the jazz flowing out of them. Mom mentioned a couple of times over the course of the day how much she liked those vintage Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers!

The wood chest in the photo above contains a lot of the family history, so a future goal is to get it all in order and do a bit of research to fill in some more of the gaps.

Vintage Honda 450.

Motorcycle riding and racing has been a bit of a tradition in the Day family, with my Dad riding an Indian Scout around Seattle in his younger days, and me racing motocross on Sunday’s as a kid. We’d all go to the Sunday races together and have a good time as a family and with friends.

My vintage Honda CR450 street bike in the photo above is in need of some TLC, as it’s not running, and has been sitting in the garage neglected. It’s on my lengthy to-do list. I’m pretty sure that having both a dirt bike and a street bike is central to being a happy and zen human being!

After finishing up dinner at my place we convened to Mom’s place for the evening to watch the St. Louis round of AMA supercross, so it was like old times at the races! We cheered Eli Tomac and Zach Osborne on to their race wins, and they were both impressive and dominating wins!

Now we have a new Saturday tradition of having a nice dinner together followed by watching the motorcycle races – what fun!

After a nice Saturday of family, food, music, and motorbikes, it was time for a little Sunday music & audio games.

Duelund CAST crossover with DCA12GA added to the HF circuit.

First up was working on the Duelund crossovers of my Westminster’s. A couple of posts ago I told you about trying some Duelund DCA12GA wire in the HF circuit of the crossovers.

I know, I know, using 12 gauge wire in HF crossover sections is crazy big and probably isn’t the best idea, but I thought it would be fun to try it to hear what happens. I’m easily entertained!

The DCA12GA sounded pretty good actually, but I think the DCA20GA is a better choice for the HF’s, but I still wanted to try half DCA12GA & half DCA20GA before I gave up on the experiment, so that’s what I thought I’d do on this Sunday afternoon.

I removed the length of DCA12GA from HF circuit on the amp side of the crossover and replaced it with the DCA20GA I’ve been using lately.

I then powered up the system and let it warm up for a bit, before I put on a familiar record, the 45RPM Analogue Productions version of Getz / Gilberto.

It’s interesting hearing the differences in presentation a simple wire substitution can accomplish.

For example, what really stood out was how the presentation of tempo & melody were affected by the heavier gauge DCA12GA wire, as it noticeably slowed down the “feel” of the tempo, making it feel more relaxed, and made the melody less articulate and expressive sounding as it flowed over time. On the other hand, the DCA12GA adds an enchanting sense of spaciousness and provides a nice overall tonal balance.

The half & half arrangement of DCA12GA & DCA20GA was pretty much as you would expect, having a presentation that fell mid-way between the two as individual wiring for the HF crossover circuits.

I’m going to let the DCA12GA & DCA20GA combo play in for a while before I decide which wiring scheme I’ll settle on.

After that, I think I’ll try the DCA12GA in the LF section of the crossover to hear what happens, which is altogether more sensible that trying it in the HF crossover circuits, but what fun!

Skip James’ Today!

Next I put on the copy of Skip James’ Today! that I found on Discogs (thanks for the recommendation, Peter!).

I haven’t listened to Today! before, so I didn’t have a before / after baseline, but I liked what I was hearing with the DCA20GA & DCA12GA combo.

I really enjoyed Skip James’ Great Depression era vibe and lyrics, it reminded me of my own family’s Depression era history, when everyone was dirt poor.

James’ father was a bootlegger (like my Grandfather’s “Uncle Bid”) who reformed and became a preacher man (unlike Uncle Bid).

This is seriously good music, and James’ impressive finger picking on the guitar in open D minor tuning, and falsetto singing, took me happily by surprise, and he showed some impressive chops playing the piano on side two as well.

As corny as it might sound, Skip James reminded me a little of Neil Young with his virtuosity on both the guitar & piano, and his falsetto singing, with the exception that he was a bluesman that preceded Neil Young by quite a lengthy span of time.

If you get a chance to buy a Skip James album, just do it, he is an important part of music history and documents an important period of time of music in the USA that influenced man later artists. I predict you’ll enjoy Mr. James as much as I have – recommended!

Ok, that’s all for now, enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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

 Posted by at 3:13 pm
Mar 122018
 

I’ve been using the sweet little Almarro A205A EL84 integrated amplifier to power my vintage Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers that I’m using in my bedroom system, and it’s a really nice match for them.

The volume pot has been kind of noisy in the A205A so I thought I’d pop the bottom off and squirt a little DeoxIT F5 on it to quiet it down.

I popped the bottom off and gave the volume pot the DeoxIT treatment and worked it back and forth a bit to spread it around and let it do its thing.

I’ve never had the bottom plate off the A205A (reviewed for 6Moons back in May of 2004), just the A205A Mk II version that I reviewed for 6Moons way back in March of 2006 (below).

Almarro A205A Mk II interior.

A popular hot rod mod of the Almarro A205A Mk II at the time was to replace the stock coupling caps – the two grey ones towards the bottom of the photo above – with some better caps, with some preferring the Teflon V-Cap’s and others Jenson PIO’s.

Also, one could make the little Almarro A205A sound a bit warmer by replacing the stock 0.047uF coupling caps with 0.068uF coupling caps.

Almarro A205A interior.

After I finished with the lubing the volume pot I was looking over the circuit and I noticed the original grey coupling caps were disconnected and had been replaced with some nice Jensen PIO’s.

There were quite a few changes that were made between the original A205A and the A205A Mk II, but the Jensen PIO coupling caps go a long way for explaining why I preferred the musicality of the older A205A to the newer A205A Mk II.

Back when I reviewed the A205A Mk II I said, “What we have here with the MkII is an example of the classic HiFi conundrum: The MkII version of the A205A sounds noticeably better at least on well-recorded material but the original A205A is more musical and easier on the ears particularly with less well-recorded material.”

So the original A205A I reviewed had the coupling caps upgraded before it ever got to me, which helps explain its richer and more musical tone.

Almarro A205A with a quad of Duelund CAST tinned-copper 0.01uF coupling caps added in parallel to the Jensens.

But that aside, I couldn’t help wonder what would happen if I bumped the Jensen 0.47uF coupling cap capacitance up with some Duelund CAST 0.01uF tinned-copper coupling caps.

Closeup of the quad of Duelund CAST tinned-copper 0.01uF coupling caps.

So I decided to add two each of Duelund CAST 0.01uF tinned-copper coupling caps in parallel with the Jensen’s to give a combined coupling capacitance of 0.067uF.

Another closeup of the Duelund tinned-copper coupling caps.

After getting everything buttoned back up, I put my hot-rodded Almarro A205A back into the system.

Almarro A205A powering the vintage Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers.

The freshly lubed volume pot was silky smooth and totally quiet, so the volume pot refresh was a resounding success.

The addition of the quad of Duelund CAST 0.01uF coupling caps to the Jensen PIO coupling caps gave more of a mixed result.

The addition of the Duelund CAST 0.01uF coupling caps opened up everything considerably, but did not warm up the presentation as I’d hoped for with the little Almarro A205A (it could use a little extra warmth).

The enhanced openness of the Duelund CAST 0.01uF coupling caps in the Almarro A205A was flattering for the lows and mids of the Corona’s, but up top it may turn out to be too much for the already fussy high-frequency presentation of their vintage Altec crossovers.

I’ll report back in this post after I get some more time on the Almarro with its additional coupling caps, perhaps they’ll settle in a bit more and smooth out in the highs.

¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪

Update: It’s surprising how much things can change in 24 hours. The A205A’s presentation has really smoothed out so that the highs are mostly blended-in in a flattering fashion, but there’s still a little more that needs to happen.

Those of you who have been following the developing story know that the 0.22uF Duelund CAST tinned-copper caps that I put in my MX110Z cathode follower positions were stunning right from the start, as they were when I tried them in my Altec A5’s crossovers in the HF circuit. Ditto with the 0.01 Duelund CAST tinned-copper coupling caps when I tried them in the A5 crossover.

So I was a little surprised the same thing didn’t happen with the 0.01uF Duelund CAST tinned-copper coupling caps in the little Almarro right off the bat. I’m thinking it would be better if I ran a pair 0.047uF or 0.068uF Duelund CAST tinned-copper caps alone instead of supplement the Jensen’s, but I went with what I had on hand.

I’m going to let it play some more over the next week and will report on any further developments.

Secret: I was going to share a Duelund secret with you in this post and forgot. Frederik mentioned to me he is contemplating building an insulated version of the DCA12GA wire suitable for use in a power cord. I don’t have any details or know anything about the timing yet, but I’ll keep you posted as I find out more.

If/when that comes to pass I think I’ll do a project where I build a power chord for the Almarro A205A (hard-wired), and a detachable AC power cord terminated with a 15A Marinco 8215 NEMA hospital-grade power plug and a matching Marinco 320 IEC connector that I can try on a couple different pieces of gear.

¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪

Update 2: Now, after 3 days of run-in time, the 0.01uF Duelund CAST tinned-copper coupling caps have blended in seamlessly and offer a very nice presentation of the music. Cymbals, and percussion in general, sounding rich and startlingly real at the same time, and the sense of space has opened up significantly, as is typical with Duelund’s tinned-copper capacitors.

I was just doing this for a “for fun” experiment, but if you were going to do a coupling cap mod to your own A205A I would recommend either a 0.047uF or 0.068uF Duelund CAST tinned-copper capacitor as the coupling caps, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Ok, that’s it for now.

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

 Posted by at 1:15 pm
Mar 092018
 

Remember my Big Round Tone post from a couple of weeks back, where I discussed the relationship of tone to gauge size for headshell leads, interconnects, speaker cables, and speaker/equipment internal wiring?

In relative terms, you get bigger, richer, and rounder tone as gauge size decreases (fatter wire).

Chubby 6th string E on the left, skinny 1st string E on the right.

You can think of it in guitar terms too. The little skinny 1st string E (far right, above) gives a brighter and more penetrating tone, and its chubby big brother, the 6th string E (far left, above), which gives a rich and bassy tone.

While the reasons for this relationship of tone to gauge size is a little different between guitars and audio wire, the relationship of gauge size to tone still holds, and is really useful in audio because you can use it to fine tune your system to get the sort of tone you’re after.

Need more clarity and brightness? Go with skinnier wire gauge size. Need more richness and warmth? Go with chubbier wire gauge size.

Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeaker.

I can’t believe how fast time goes by, I’ve had my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers now for over 8 years. 8 years! I can’t hardly believe it’s been that long!

The Westminster’s are a terrific speaker musically and sonically, and my appreciation for them grew ten-fold after building crossovers for them out of Duelund CAST components.

That was also my first experience with modifying equipment – nothing like diving off into the deep end of the pool to learn how to swim!

Duelund CAST crossovers for the WRSE’s.

Besides being great to listen to music with, the Westminster’s are great for reviewing, because that little high-frequency brass horn you see in the center of the dual concentric driver is ultra-revealing of small differences in just about anything, whether it be wire, resistors, capacitors, inductors, or what have you.

When you get the overall tone dialed in perfectly the big Westminster’s are amazing, but if something is a mismatch you’ll know it in a hurry.

I’m always fiddling with my system as an audio writer, because something is always changing in it.

I’ve been using Duelund DCA12GA as speaker cables for my West’s, and the Duelund crossovers are wired with Duelund DCA16GA wire in the low-frequency part of the circuit, and Duelund DCA20GA wire in the high-frequency part of the circuit.

Just for kicks, yesterday I decided I would swap out the DCA20GA in the HF crossover circuit for some DCA12GA to hear what would happen.

Intuitively it seems like way too fat of wire to use in a HF circuit, but you never know what’ll happen until you try it.

Duelund CAST crossover with DCA12GA added to the HF circuit (the bottom part of the crossover). That’s the DCA20GA in the upper left corner that I took out.

The DCA12GA wire is so much bigger than the DCA20GA wire that it wouldn’t fit into the standard McMaster-Carr setscrew lugs I use in my crossovers, so I had to use some much bigger McMaster-Carr setscrew lugs to get the DCA12GA to fit. Luckily I had the foresight to order some of the big McMaster-Carr setscrew lugs awhile back, so I had some on hand.

Driver side closeup of DCA12GA wire (foreground) and prototype Duelund CAST resistors with tinned-copper leads.

It took me about an hour to redo everything in the HF crossover circuits with Duelund DCA12GA. Note the size difference with the two versions of the McMaster-Carr setscrew lugs in the middle-right of the photo above. The DCA12GA is a lot bigger, necessitating the big lugs.

By the way, those prototype Duelund CAST resistors with the tinned-copper leads you see in the photo above have really nice tone.

In the upcoming Duelund crossover project for my vintage Altec A7 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers, Frederik is indulging me a little (ok a lot!) with an idea I have for the resistors.

For each resistor specified in the Hiraga-style circuit, I asked Frederik if he would mind building resistors that have two paralleled resistive elements, as well as use chubbier leads than he usually does.

Amplifier side close-up of DCA12GA in the HF crossover circuit.

My rationale was that experience has taught me that I get bigger tone with paralleled resistors and fatter leads, and I can push them harder without overloading them.

I’ll be pretty embarrassed if it doesn’t work out like I think it will, but I’m really excited to find out!

Ok, enough on my little resistor diversion, now back to the effect the DCA12GA in the HF circuit had on the musicality and sonics of the music playback.

Good Pickin’s by Howard Roberts.

I had Howard Robert’s Good Pickin’s on the turntable, so after letting the system warm up suitably, I started listening.

The difference in tone with the DCA12GA in the HF crossover circuit was dramatic, with the presentation being richer, bigger, and warmer, by a lot.

Timbral textures were more obvious, and the sense of spaciousness in the recording opened up a lot.

The DCA20GA sounded smoother, a little leaner, and more articulate, but the DCA12GA was very enticing.

I did notice that with the DCA12GA the sense of beat and tempo were a little more relaxed than I liked, but still good.

It never ceases to amaze me how much difference a few short lengths of wire can make on system voicing.

I’m thinking that maybe part of the HF circuit wired with DCA12GA and part with the DCA20GA might give a very nice blend of musical & sonic qualities, so I might try that too.

Of course the point of the post is that it is worth experimenting with differing wire gauge sizes to voice a system, and there’s no magic recipe other than to roll up your shirt sleeves and try a few combinations to see what happens, until you find the favored combination.

Have fun experimenting, and as always thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 2:46 pm
Mar 042018
 

If you’re like me, you’ve had a hard time finding finding a quality wood cleaner, restorer, and preserver, that doesn’t contain things you don’t want on fine or vintage wood finishes (i.e. silicone), or that leaves a waxy buildup that will oxidize to a dull finish over time.

Kramer’s Best Antique Improver, 8 oz.

I’ve found something I am really impressed with, Kramer’s Best Antique Improver. The climate I live in is hard on woods, with my nice wood furniture and Tannoy Westminster Royal SE cabinets needing a little help at times.

I ordered an 8 oz. bottle of Kramer’s Best Antique Improver from Amazon for about $20 USD, and it’s proven remarkable at cleaning my Westminster’s cabinets of a bit of waxy buildup that has oxidized over time, and restoring them to what they looked like brand new out of the shipping containers.

One of the beauties of the Kramer’s Best Antique Improver is that it’s so easy to use. Wipe on, wipe off. It’s as easy as that!

8 oz. of Kramer’s Best Antique Improver goes a long way, easily enough for a pair of Westminster’s and probably 2 – 3 pieces of wood furniture as well.

Kudos to John Kramer for making such an excellent product!

I was so pleased with the results that I wanted to pass on the tip to you!

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

 Posted by at 12:13 pm