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Thursday, 31 July 2008

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Come on Mike lets see the entire book case get a wide angle out and let us see what you got in that room.
Michael

Mike,

You've got to help Ken out! He's blowing the highlights in his pictures, not to mention the fact that they need a saturation boost, perspective correction, some sharpening, image stabilization...

Adam

In case anyone is wondering.. yes, that was a joke!

Best,
Adam

Jeez, I SO wanted one of those Marantz receivers (perhaps that very model) when I was in high school (68-72). I also SO wanted a really cool turntable with the machined strobed speed calibration indicators (was it a Pioneer?) on the platter. I would gaze at this stuff in audio magazines and in stores. I would make a special effort to attend parties at homes of wealthier kids who I knew had this gear. (The father of a close friend of mine was general manager at the Chicago Playboy Club. Believe me when I say that his parties were worth forgoing anything else to attend.)

But, alas, I was wee-wee poor and such luxury was as far beyond my grasp as a new Bentley. It wasn't until 1980 (two days after John Lennon's death) that I finally got my first good music system (for which I'd save $1,000) at an audio boutique.

My immediate first millisecond emotional reaction to seeing the photo of your "new" Marantz receiver was fascinating to me: I STILL want one of those! I think that the cool blue lights in the vu meters and station indicator, plus that "Marantz" script typeface are what grabbed me. I can only think that it's a reaction identical to seeing an ancient car-of-your-dreams in vintage condition, eh?

Hmmm, those Dynaco A-25s look a lot like my Advent speakers sitting in my living room. New foam installed around the speaker cones. They sound pretty darn good, again.

And that print is great, too.

"I can only think that it's a reaction identical to seeing an ancient car-of-your-dreams in vintage condition, eh?"

Ken,
Right. BMW 2002tii for me. My friend Kim would probably say Shelby Cobra or some kind of AC....

Mike J.

Bill,
Advents are good, yes. In college I briefly had a pair of AR3a's, but they were hooked up to my best friend's high-powered Nikko separates. The problem was that whenever a drunk friend wandered over to the Nikko during a party and jacked the volume knob, I had about four seconds to get there before there'd be a CRACK! CRACK! And the tweeters would blow. Power handling was not their forte. I think I had the tweeters replaced three times before I replaced the AR's with more durable speakers.

Mike J.

All Polka all the time? But do they have anything like this?
http://www.polkacide.com/


OK, somebody else into proper stereo gear.

Now this is to not deny what you have isn't great, however I have a friend who has collected all of the products of Dynaco from day one. He has all of the Dynaco amps, and tuners (all tube) and the equivalent A25 speakers. I also have a set of A25 speakers, still performing well although these days it's a Bryston amp and preamp and a Magnum Dynalab tuner. A tower on the other side of the house, away from the tower with the ham radio antennas has a rotor and a directional antenna which is used to pull in distant decent FM stations.

My turntable is presently a belt drive Sony with a Shure V15 cartridge and for those 78 rpm discs a Dual player, still in good condition and back on accurate in speed. Tape is a combination of cassette and open reel tape (the latter on a recently rebuilt Revox A77 machine. I do listen to compact discs however have yet to find a satisfactory
player for the few discs I do own. My vinyl collection is mostly organ both classical and theatre.

Vinyl sounds different and seems to me to be happier music reproduction.

Mike,

Great looking Marantz! For a moment I thought you had paired it with some old AR's. The Dynaco's are nice and you shouldn't need to worry about replacing the rubber surrounds.
I read your first post with great interest since I've been collecting and using vintage hi-fi for around fifteen years now. There's a lot of satisfaction in finding a near mint piece of older gear to bring home and play with.
You mention having owned a pair of 3a's. I always wanted a pair of AR-10pi's (the 3a's successor) after hearing them in the late 70's at a local Hi-Fi show. I never got those, but did get the last version of the 3a that AR made in 1995.
Very nice, with ample bass, and the tweeters can take the heat.

By the way, since I rarely post comments I just want to say that this is a truly enjoyable, entertaining and informative blog and that I have enjoyed it and its predecessor since I first started reading SMP on photo.net a few years back.

...24 hour Polka radio stations... punk polka bands??? God - you gotta love this country!!!
Dennis F.


Ken, I know that feeling (about still wanting the old Marantz). I still get that when I see 70's Corvette Stingrays (when I took shop in Junior High I made a "Corvette" placque that's I still have) and the Nikon FM2. I don't know what it is about that camera; I have a nice, working Rolleiflex TLR and a neat Ricoh 500 RF that both have the retro mechanical thing all over the FM2 ... but I never wanted either of those; I just stumbled across them. The FM2, I wanted (at one time).

The FM2 I'll skip because I'd never use it; the Corvette I'll skip because it's too impractical (or I'm too practical) and fortunately, I can't think of much else I always craved as a kid. Well, I always wanted a rock tumbler from the Sears Christmas book ... my wife and daughter bought me one for Christmas last year. Like most of the things I wanted as a kid, it was better in the catalog.

I'm almost welling up at the thought of playing a lumpy copy of Sticky Fingers through that Marantz. When my ugly new fangled Sony multi CD/DVD TV surround blah blah plastic tower thingy finally gives out (it sounds like it's chewing on the CDs) I'm going retro! I've got a pile of equipment gathering dust in the basement, and these articles of yours have re-reminded me of how much I miss all that stuff.

One more note: I have a Grundig "Majestic" console unit that sounds great, but has a dead turntable. The tuner also wanders a bit. If anyone has a line on someone (still living) who might be capable of rebuilding it, please send me a note. Thanks.

Oh my how I lusted after my older brother's Marantz. He had a Sony reel-to-reel that he recorded his first garage band on and would play through a well worn set of home made corner horns.

My own first "real" receiver was a Sherwood (still operating, by the way) from Flanner and Hafsoos when they were at Mayfair Mall. Speaking of lusting, surely you (Mike) remember the back room at Flanner's with all of the high end gear: Carver, Macintosh, Magnepan, and for pure style, the separate room for B & O!

As to the lack of anything but 70's radio, don't overlook our own WMSE, or WUWM2 (HD-not likely to come in on your Marantz...)

Pat

Around 1991 I bought an old Vietnam era Sansui receiver at a yard sale.... took it home, put it on the kitchen table, took the knobs and cover etc. off to clean it up, then put it all back together and put it on a shelf. Hooked up some speakers and it worked great. When I went back to the kitchen table, I did a triple-take; there was a tiny bud of dope lying there…. as if to say: “it wasn’t just a dream, after all….” So few real reminders are left of the times these dinosaurs roamed the earth, or at least its living rooms.

I clearly remember thinking when I first turned the wheel on that Marantz in the showroom that that's what it must feel like to steer a Rolls.

Internet Radio Component Tuner?

John,
No question internet radio is an improvement.

My "real" stereo is [hard drive & internet] --> USB DAC with volume control --> amplifier --> speakers. Like digital photography, it's not as much fun and also much better.

Mike J.

All I can say is, you are lucky. Having known people who worked in recording studios in the late 70s, what I always wanted was a pair of Tannoy Super Red monitors. About 10 years ago I had the money but not the restraint: I now have a pair Super Reds AND a pair of slightly smaller Tannoys. These are, to say the least, quite large speakers: Super Reds have 15 inch cones, the other ones are 12 inch. I guess this is the audio equivalent of large format: equally impractical, but they do sound fantastic.

Tim,
My main speakers are Tannoys too, although nothing so exotic as the Super Reds. But you're lucky as well: you need, what, 12 to 15 watts per channel of good tube power to run a pair of Super Reds? That's a good way to go, IMHO.

Mike J.

I have a stereo amp (Sansui, 80 watts) from 1982 and a pair of AR speakers (about the same size as the 10-pi model but they have a different designation (4b maybe, can't remember). No remote control, and the FM receiver is acting up; I think there's crud on the contacts because turning the dial causes weird noise, so I just leave it tuned to one station.

Now and then I think about replacing it and read what's available in sales flyers. I never see the word stereo anymore, some other jargon instead, so I give up. I hope that when I do have to replace it, I can set the news ones up to mimic 2-channel stereo because I am not buying anymore speakers. I'd rather buy an old refurbished receiver like that Marantz in the picture.

A couple of years ago I needed a new CD player but bought a $50 DVD player instead; I couldn't find a simple CD player except for the portable kind and they cost more.

You know how I know I am a dinosaur. I have never downloaded music and I do not play music through my computer.

When it comes to ridiculous vintage speakers, I would want a pair of Klipsch La Scala's myself. If I could just have the place to put then, borrow someones truck, and find someone selling them locally...

"You know how I know I am a dinosaur. I have never downloaded music and I do not play music through my computer."

Robert,
I have to admit I love the convenience of downloading, and of the 30-second previews, and of being able to organize my 7,000 songs on my iTunes browser and access any one of them instantly. I'm not a very organized guy, and I never had an easy time locating my physical copies of CDs or records.

It goes beyond that, though. I used to say that vinyl could be an F, D, C, B, or A in terms of sound quality, but all CDs were either B's, B-plusses, or B-minuses. That is, vinyl could easily be worse than CD, but it could also be better than CD. Personally I think that one of the reasons for the decline in music-listening as a hobby is that CD is non-optimizable; it's an inherently mid-fi technology, and no amount of expenditure on equipment can make up for its deficiencies.

So then HDCD and SACD and DVD-Audio and whatnot all come along, and are supposed to be improvements on CD. But each suffers from limited adoption, limited incursion into the marketplace, and limited releases, and all eventually splutter and peter out. Each new medium that comes along that is higher in quality has done increasingly WORSE in the marketplace.

So now we have Blu-Ray, which is mainly for movies but contains a stereo audio standard, but so far there basically aren't any stereo music Blu-Ray discs. And there just won't be, in any adequate sense. So Blu-Ray is superior to SACD and CD, but it's essentially not going to be adopted as a music carrier. I'll be surprised if there are EVER more than 1k titles offered on physical Blu-Ray discs. It's the same problem as SACD only much worse.

So far, downloading has been mostly in compressed formats, from LAME-encoded MP3's to Apple Lossless files from iTunes. There's a limited PC/Microsoft-only download service called "Music Giants" that is providing CD-quality downloads and (confusingly) calling it "HD," for high-definition, even though it ISN'T HD...it's CD-quality, which is better than the lossy formats but not HD.

But sooner or later, we will start getting REAL high-definition downloads available to us from the internet. Meaning, 192 kHz/24-bit (CD is only 44.1 kHz/16-bit). And when that comes, it will be the ONLY way that we will be able to get truly high-quality source material for home playback. Blu-Ray has the potential to offer it, but the products are just never going to be manufactured and offered for sale.

So downloading, which is the "method of the moment" in lossy and compressed formats, is also the "method of the future" in terms of promising a real improvement over CD that will also be viable commercially.

So if I were you, I'd get comfortable with it. Download a free copy of iTunes and copy a few of your CDs to your hard drive. (People who have never done it think that all "downloads" = MP3 = crappy sound, but that's not true at all...you can also UPLOAD as well as download, and you can put your CDs on your hard drive at full AIFF resolution if you want to. It's your choice. There's no reason that music on your hard drive has to be compromised in any way from music from your CDs.)

I have no idea when true HD downloads are going to get here in any magnitude, but someday Apple will start making HD (192 kHz/24-bit) downloads available on iTunes. (I speculate that they are preparing to intro HD downloading when they introduce the Beatles catalog, but that might either be astute analysis or rose-tinted-glasses wishful thinking on my part). If Apple doesn't do it, somebody else will. Once it happens, though, the future will finally have arrived for fans of 2-channel music listening.

Mike J.

Wow.. I have a Marantz tuner that looks just like that - except it does not have the integrated amp. It's still working. I love its blue lights, and that wheel for tuning the stations is, like, well, sooooo smoooth. It's great to find others who love these things! I wonder how many of us out there still love our gear that's over 30 years old, like our moving coil Audio Technica cartridges, Grace unipivot tonearms, B&W studio monitors... time to put on some music!

Mike,

I think the tenor sax on the photo is Bud Freeman.

And Red Norvo did not play trumpet, he played vibs.

Thank you for the great site.

Chico Fernandez

Chico,
That's it! It's Bud Freeman. Now if I could just remember the others...I need to write these names down, because I seem incapable of remembering all of them at the same time.

Thanks.

Mike J.

Mike

You have it all wrong, you were suppose to use Radio Shack 18 gauge solid core, not stranded.

However this would make your stereo sound like vintage 90's , not 70's.

Eric

Eric,
Right! And of course the Radio Shack hookup wire was an upgrade from the lampcord most people used as "speaker cables," a term which didn't exist when I bought my first Marantz in about '72.

I will say that the tiny, skinny "power cord" (another more recent term) on the Marantz kind of took me aback. I have actual lamp cords that are beefier.

Mike J.

I'm no audiophile.

I have the first and only stereo I ever bought. LUXMAN receiver and CD player and some B&W DM220's that all seem to work just fine. I did replace both tweeters ( is that really what you call them?) 1979 if I recall.

Mike,

My question is the set up of your speakers. Based on the photo you have a very unbalanced speaker set up. This is not a criticism merely an observation. Care to comment.

Beautiful looking stuff that I hope you enjoy for years to come. Or until you buy something else!

Thanks

Thanks for info and encouragement, Mike. I am not a technophobe, hell I used to write software for a living so in a sense I helped bring this on, it's just that the stereo is in the living room where I listen to music, and the computer is somewhere else, where I don't.

Lately, last 5 years say, I have been buying my CD's from the artists' sites directly (or re-routed through some other portal). Maybe that's a function of who I listen to, usually Celtic, folk, or indie Canadian bands (try listening to the weakerthans out of Winnipeg). I suspect I buy a lot less music than most folks, so it doesn't take up a lot of my time. I don't have thousands of CDs and titles to keep track of.

I still have a Aiwa casette walkman type device, but I only use it to listen to the radio while doing boring household chores.

I used to care a lot more about high fidelity and spent hours with friends testing speakers and going to stereo shows. It seems as if I have less time to listen now, just at a time when I could afford better technology, but also coinciding with when my ears are getting older (like my eyes). The fact that better standards may be coming is good, but may be beside the point for me anyway. It's like medium format digital backs, I am sure they're fantastic but I am never going to buy one.

charlie d,
Actually my speakers aren't unbalanced at all, because they don't need to be symmetrical with regard to the receiver, but rather with regard to the room and the listener, which they are.

Nowadays small speakers are almost never designed to actually go on bookshelves. They're designed to be in free space, on stands well away from the "front wall," which for some reason is what audiophiles call the wall in back of the speakers. (I guess because it's the wall in front of THEM.) But in those days it was common to site speakers on the floor or actually on bookshelves, so the old designs typically need a little boundary reinforcement for the bass.

George Short at North Creek Music has designed some modern "bookshelf speakers" that are actually optimized for placement on bookshelves (he calls them "near wall specific"), but that's the only such case I know of.

Mike J.

I had 300+ CDs in a Sony jukebox and over the last year+ and pulled in most of my CDs into iTunes. It took time because I only copied songs I really wanted - if I hit shuffle on the iPod, I want everything it might play to be good. I've downloaded a few songs from iTunes - that's handy. But I liken it to having digital photos in an organizer (I use PS Elements). You can find pictures by date, by keyword, by camera; you can create groupings, all so much easier than finding a way to try & organize physical prints or negatives. Same thing - I love playlists. I used to hit shuffle on my CD jukebox, only to have to hit the skip button on the remote every time a Christmas song came up, or one of my daughters kids CDs. I have all of the songs I've copied into iTunes on an 80GB iPod which I can carry in the car, hook up to a boom box outside, or plug into a dock hooked up to my receiver (both Marantz, fwiw). Just as with photos, purists can debate the quality differences, but the conveniences far outweigh such difference for most of us.

Mike:

yes the smaller ones (which may be reds) run from a valve (tube...) amp, which I made in fact. It has been known to catch fire. The big ones run from a Quad 405 which you don't need to turn up very far...

One for the Jazz-Lovers among us: KKJZ, www.jazzandblues.org - just in case Polka sucks... ;-)

Mike, when are you putting up the matching wall paneling? :)

I had very similar stuff in the 70s and I don't miss it AT ALL. Still...it's really nice to see it here...a bit of time travel without the actual pain of ownership!

I'll second the KKJZ recommendation. Almost the only way to hear decent music here in Germany.

Mike,

I'm having trouble finding a good beginner's guide to HiFi. Can you recommend a web-page or two?

If I were to start with a Marantz 1090 integrated amp, what kind of CD-player should I pair it with? Is there anything decent that would match the optic of the old Marantz?

Thanks!

I am still running (among other bits) a Dynaco SCA-80Q for the "patio amp", a Fisher 400 series receiver for the basement source, an RGR preamp paired with an Audionics power amp, and there is a bunch of valve gear awaiting refurb and reassignment .. not to mention a massive The Source 'table to mate with the Dyna PAS-3X.

Bojidar,
It's getting pretty confusing these days, what with music servers and DACs and multiple boxes split into multiple boxes. Bob Harley's books are pretty good, although sometimes he strikes me as a bit of a Bolshevik the way he hews invariably to the audiophile party line. (I'd suggest the newer, shorter book as being better initially, as it's less turgid. Jeez, I hope Bob Harley isn't reading this! Remember I *am* recommending him, after all.)

You might also join Audiokarma and ask a lot of questions. They're friendly there and, like here, any nastiness that might come in is ever-so-deftly moderated out.

Beyond that, I really don't know. It's been a good thirty years since I was a beginner, so I'm not really up on the beginner literature. Sorry I can't help.

Mike J.

Great post, Mike. Seeing that Marantz receiver really brought back the memories. I never did pony up and get the Marantz 2325, but as soon as you mentioned the AR 3a's you got my attention.

I bought two pair of the AR LST-2's back in 1976 or 1977 that were floor models. It turned out that the tweeters were blown on all four speakers, but I did manage to have them replaced under warranty.

They were total power hogs and the tweeters were fragile, but I ended up buying a Sony STC-7000 Tuner/Pre-Amp and two Sony 3200F (100 watts per channel) power amps - one amp per pair of speakers. That system had me floating on a cloud listening to my music.

Anyhow, in the early 1990's my wife eventually banished them from the living room, and the entire setup has been "on a shelf" unused for over a decade due to the need of having the Sony components looked at and restored similar to what Robert Bowdish does with the Marantz receivers.

My question is to the readers here, does anyone know of another technician or company that restores other brands like the Sony components from the 1970's?

Any advice would be much appreciated.

I have to comment because it still pains me to this day that I sold my Marantz 2220 for $25 at a garage sale. I did sell it to help pay for doctor bills from my daughter's birth. But, I always wish I could have found something else to sell.

My interest in old cameras leads me again and again into renewed interest in classic stereo gear. because you find the best of both in the same places- pawn shops and thrift shops where the old stuff stands out, to me at least. A few years ago, it was always worth stopping by these places for old-school camera gear. I was assembling a lens set for my new KM 7D, and it was a buyer's market, here in Colorado, anyway. One week I found three beercans (Minolta 70-210/4, for the uninitiated), each for $75. I kept the best and auctioned the rest.

Nowadays I find almost no desirable Minolta lenses, and fewer good cameras in general...though that mint Nikon FE with 20/2.8 was a profitable flip. Instead, I find remarkable values in stereo gear.

Last month I found KEF C30 speakers, $800 list in the '80s, for sale for $15. Those are keepers. They're out in my greenhouse now, fed by my new Rotel CD player ($750 new in '95, $35 used at pawn). Yes, there is a difference in CD players! My bigger home system is based around a pair of Polk Audio RT 12s, large boxes with two small widranges vibrating a huge passive radiator, topped with an unboxed tweeter atop a huge mysterious set of copper coils that serve as crossovers. They put the singer right in the room with you. Magical! When I bother to shut down the computer, and sit down to listen to them.

Each of these flaming bargains were pawned off or given away by someone convinced that newer is always better. Something from Bose, perhaps. Who wants big speakers and single-CD players these days? Just a few of us. With a lot of searching and little money, we can enjoy a level of excellence and performance that we only dreamed of before.

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