Tuesday, October 12, 2010

This is not the beginning...

I began my audio hobby and passion sometime around 1967 at the age of 11.  I began acquiring used pieces like a Fisher FM-80 (all tube equipment became unpopular suddenly as everyone had to upgrade to transistors).  Then I discovered that my small hometown of Woodland Hills, California (a suburb of Los Angeles) had three high end audio dealers, Woodland Stereo, Music and Sound (Mel Schilling), and Sunshine Stereo (moved later to Florida).  All within walking distance of my home.  One of my friends demanded that I compare the original Bose speakers to Infinity's at Woodland Stereo in 1971.  He ended up getting the Infinity's (with walsh tweeter), US-made Marantz (1200 amp), Sony turntable.  By 1974 I had Japanese Marantz 2270, Dual 1209, ADC cartridge, and Advent speakers.  Not in keeping with my dreams (I wanted Marantz 19) but stuff I could afford.  I probably could have gotten Marantz tube equipment back then if only I had known better.

Another of my friends was one of the original employees at Great American Sound and I first met JB himself in 1975.  During college, I performed experiments in auditory perception in the Psychology Department of Pomona College.  Then after graduation, I worked as a technician at Audio Dimensions in San Diego where I did repairs and tube modifications (I slaved under orders of the owner Ike Eisenson...I tried not to touch that Marantz 7, but was only following orders, please forgive me).  Finally in 1980 I gave up on audio as a job, I needed to make real money doing what other people wanted me to do, since I wasn't clever enough to get rich in audio, but I never gave up on the personal audio passion.

Just after national election day in 2004 I decided that since the future of the world didn't look to be going in a particularly good direction, I might as well just try to enjoy myself as much as I can, right now.  I had been too stingy with audio for too long.  The last real high end speakers I had bought were Rogers LS3/5A, a speaker I bought in 1981 and was unhappy with in 1983 (leading to a long series of experiments and modifications, leading to the conclusion around 2003 that this was not a good speaker to start as the basis of modification, it's already about as optimized for what it can be as it is, the drivers aren't that good actually and that's the chief weakness).  I had gone through a series of second-hand discount speakers (like Sound Dynamics 300Ti) which seemed better in some ways, but still didn't do it for me anymore.

Since then I've assembled 3 essentially all-new audio systems in the 3 main listening areas of my house.  The main system is built around a pair of large dipolar electrostatic speakers, Acoustat 1+1, which for my needs are one of the best speakers made.  They're great because they do what they do incredibly well and don't try to do other stuff they can't do with hacks like magnetic woofers.  So the Acoustats make a great midrange speaker, covering the midrange from 100Hz to 18Khz (where they naturally roll off).  I have augmented them with a pair of very large ported subwoofers (SVS PB-13) and omnidirectional ribbon tweeters (Elac CI 4PI plus).  The result is one of the most stunning systems I've ever heard, and I've heard quite a few good ones.  The amplifier for the Acoustats had to keep up with the current demand down to the 2-3ohm impedance at 19Khz.  I had always wanted an amp with regulated HV rails too.  So, on faith, I bought a Krell FPB 300 and it worked out wonderfully.  Except when it has needed repair, including right now, so right now I'm borrowing my bedroom main amp, a Parasound 1500, which is about the smallest amp that can handle these incredibly inefficient power sucking (black hole) speakers.

This system will play loud, but the most salient point is the total openness and spaciousness and clarity of the sound.  When the Krell is powering it, it has incredible layered depth.  Now that the Krell is offline, I've made some additonal modifications that have made it sound almost as good as when I was running the Krell.

I haven't been much into cables and tweaks and things like that, but when I had to change amplifiers I took the opportunity of cleaning up all the excess cables, wires, etc., making everything as short as possible (a job which is not completed now and never will be), and adding a power conditioner.  Somehow these tweeks seemed to have been especially necessary with an unregulated Class AB amplifier, and now I have sound almost as good as with Class A.

Now I really like this new power conditioner and battery backup system I got, a PureAV AVU1500, and have started to look into what it actually does a little more closely.  (BTW, I have a room full of test equipment just to do this sort of thing.)  And I'll be taking the Krell apart.  And more.  The fun is not only when the equipment is playing music, but when you have it on the bench and happen to use just exactly the right probe to make it reveal its secrets (which doesn't always happen).  That's the kind of thing I hope to be doing here, sharing my discoveries of what makes audio work and what keeps it from working.

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