My buddy Ron stopped by with three amplifiers from his collection for an afternoon of listening fun & games. The first one we listened to was Ron’s vintage Harmon-Kardon Citation II that he fully restored – but not ‘hot-rodded’ – using Jim McShane’s parts offerings.
The vintage Harmon-Kardon Citation II sounded warm, rich, eminently musical, and was just a sheer pleasure to listen to.
I can’t imagine any music lover not being enthralled with the vintage Harmon-Kardon Citation II’s extremely musical balance. If you run across a ‘II’ in good shape you ought to snap it up. You’ll want to make sure it us up to spec, and if not, then you can bring it up to spec with Jim’s parts. The result will be a piece of vintage audio history that will run circles around most amplifiers being produced today, musically speaking, with its warm, rich, sexy sound. I know if I find a mint one it’s going to get added to my collection.
Next we listened to Ron’s mint vintage Harmon-Kardon Citation V that he has fully restored and hot-rodded using Jim McShane’s parts & performance modifications.
The rodded Citation V is a great sounding amplifier too, but more in the tradition of the clean, clear, style of audio presentation. The Citation V was the premiere H-K amplifier, with the Citation II being the more entry level amp. If you want a vintage amp with that clean & clear style of sound then the V is for you. However, if I were voting with my money I’d rather have the Citation II for its warm, relaxed musicality, which suits my listening bias and system balance better.
As an aside: A special thanks to Cindy, who brought over a couple of boxes of LPs that she wanted to get rid of that were collecting dust up in the attic. Cindy is a top-flight scientist whose work is making our world a better place to live in, and not only that, Cindy worked her way through a physics program by doing modeling, so she’s got both smarts and beauty (easy boys!).
You just can’t beat an all vinyl listening session – Cindy you’re the best!
Next up for listening are the best push-pull mono amplifiers I’ve ever heard, the exquisitely executed, superbly hand-built, 50A mono amplifiers by Kara Chaffee, that are based on – what else – the classic 50A Fisher circuit.
Kara has really produced a wonderful amplifier that has the best balance of musicality and sonics that I’ve ever heard in an amplifier. Kara’s design uses an interstage transformer drive, full triode operation (for 45 watts), uses twin (!!!) tube rectifiers for a soft start, a choke input power supply with old-school transistor-less voltage regulation, paper & oil signal capacitors, tube regulated bias voltage supply, and hardwired audio circuitry with point-to-point wiring. The chassis is even fabricated from solid billet aluminum with the parts that make it up being CNC machined by Kara personally, which has an uber quality ‘Swiss watch’ feel to it.
These 50A amplifiers do everything right both musical and sonically. The 50A sounds remarkably like the Leben CS660P from the mid-range on up, but are sweeter and more natural sounding. From the mid-range on down they slaughter my Leben CS660P with a more balanced bass presentation and better articulation of timbre in the bass – it’s enough to make your jaw drop!
If you can afford to spend $10K on a pair of mono amplifiers (I know it sounds shallow to say they are a bargain at only $10K, but that’s the case), I recommend the Model 50A without reservation, they are simply superb, and have got me to thinking about how I could work a pair into my budget.
Many thanks to Ron for sharing part of his amplifier collection with us, and many thanks to Cindy for generously sharing her LPs, which made for a very memorable start to the year here.
From Jeff’s Place to your listening room, here’s wishing all of you the very best for 2011, I hope it’s your best year yet!