Monday, April 2, 2012

Audio Fool's Weekend

Last weekend I had lots of audio fun and made some improvements.  The biggest one is that finally, after 5 years of procrastination, properly set up my Panasonic Strain Gauge phono system, moving the Linn turntable to my choice turntable spot (after moving Sony PSX-800 turntable out), and moving the rest of the equipment needed nearby.  Proper setup includes a Bruce Moore (?) strain gauge preamp, and digitization and equalization via a Behringer DEQ 2496.  I fine tuned this with instruments and listened.  I will have more to say about this in a dedicated post.  I also tested out my newly acquired Fisher FM-90x.  It works sort-of but immediately needs new output coupling cap because the old one has serious leakage.  The 0.22uF cap seems far too low by modern standards, so I will need consider the best replacement.  KPAC is still putting out weak signal that is useless for stereo on any of my tuners, but I wanted something with a more tube-like sound than the Kenwood 600T I'm using.  So I brought out the Marantz 20B, hooked up via 300 ohms (it has reasonable sensitivity that way) as I was using for the Fisher.  That was just the ticket for making the sound of KPAC in mono more musically interesting, and I'm still listening to it now.

As the weekend began, I had been messing with the multichannel adjustments on the Oppo BDP-95 and playing Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here.  It appears the Oppo will not let you calibrate speaker levels unless you have selected downmix to 5.1.  I liked best the test that came on the Pink Floyd Blu Ray disc, it puts out pink noise to each channel.  From that I can hear how much softer the highs are coming from my surround speakers.  I also don't really like the way multichannel discs force me to abandon my primary subwoofer crossover, and use the inferior crossover built-in to the player.  Expensive multichannel controllers can get around this: you need to be able to sum the crossed over bass with the effects channel.  I felt the bass on the multichannel playback was not anywhere near as good as my normally adjusted bass, and the bass in bedroom system is far better still because of dedicated crossover.

But actually my main focus as the weekend began was on turntables.  Sometime last week I had gotten concerned that I still had no record playing system after almost 2 years.  Both my systems needed some kind of attention which I had not been able to get myself to deal with.  So (as I often do under such circumstances) I started looking at getting yet another turntable.  Since Monday I was spending hours each day checking out turntable models I had never heard of before (like Kenwood L-07D) or that I had heard of before but hadn't thought much about (like the Nakamichi Dragon CT).  I've been arguing with my friend in Germany about turntables since last week, he feels most "furniture" turntables of today are useless (and he gives particular reasons) and has been suggesting I get a Rega Planar which he believes is correctly engineered.  I've written about ten pages of arguments about turntables and their issues to him.  I bid on what I admit would have mainly been a nostalgia piece: a Thorens TD125 with Rabco Arm.  I started losing that and let it go.  I also bid on a Rega Planar 3 which is still at auction.  I was seriously thinking of buying a Dragon CT, and slightly less seriously quite a few other things, including a Denon 7000 and Cotter BT-2.  I've discovered The Vintage Knob and other sites with information on old turntables.  I've read about the new idler drive fad (what's old is new) with the Lenco and Thorens TD124 turntables now at the top of the subjectivists piles.  Anyway, this is where I was as the weekend was beginning, fortunately I didn't spend much more time online at home over the weekend researching even more (though I did learn more about VPI, Kenwood, Yamaha GT, Pioneer Exclusive P3).  Instead I made real progress.  Now that I've gotten my Linn/Panasonic phono playback system going, and may have my Sony/Dynavector system going again before long, I really don't need another turntable.  But I still might get something new also, sometime.

One thing I've learned which lets me enjoy my Linn system more is that you can leave a record playing at the end for a long time after it starts making the clicking sound.  That clicking sound is not going to damage anything.  Stylus wear from this simply counts as additional playback time, not a big deal.  I always used to be in panic when the record ended.  Now I can even go to another room and not worry about it.

Way more audio fun than a typical weekend, and yet the primary focus of the weekend was in snapping my yard back into shape, it was overgrown with 4-6 foot weeds and grass from recent early spring rains.  I got the front yard almost fully weed whacked and mowed (actually, I didn't do the mowing, when I got out there on Sunday I some neighbor had mysteriously done it for me), the back yard got partly whacked (weed whacker ran out of string on Sunday morning), crucial weeds in front of workshop and by gate were pulled, and the canopy which has been junk in my back yard since December 2011 finally got disassembled, hosed off, and put away in the workshop.  My lady friend came over both Saturday and Sunday, on Saturday she helped with canopy disassembly and patio clean up.  The front yard should now pass city code and important progress was made in back.  New bamboo plant was watered.  It sure is nice to have breakfast or an evening drink on the patio now.

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