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Monday, 20 August 2012

Comments

"most speakers sound okay at low volumes. Not very many sound good at high volume"

This is the opposite of my experience; but to be fair, I suspect our usages of the terms "high" and "low" may be a little different here. I live in a flat (an apartment would have solid floors; this has only wooden floors separating my downstairs neighbour from my own rather arcane listening, and with other neighbours in similar proximity too) - and good relations are a necessity in such a setup.

I had a long and difficult search for equipment which would still sound OK at listening volumes which many hifi aficionados would have trouble distinguishing from a power cut. By this I mean: detailed and natural, with at least the suggestion of dynamics, and a semiconvincing simulation of actual bass procured entirely through misdirection.

I settled on quite lively source equipment; Croft valve (tube) amplification specially modified with a lower gain and higher quality potentiometer; solid core cabling; ProAc monitors.

I agree that speakers break the general rule: normally you want to buy the second cheapest. Here you want to buy the second most expensive.

Mike, I just love your OT posts!
Your new midrange driver appears to be sourced from Focal, the french brand once known as JMLab. Am I right?
It's so unfortunate that high-end audio is plagued by mediocre products. Loudspeaker manufacturing, in particular, is the easiest way to make a profit out of scamming audiophiles. What does it take to make a loudspeaker? Some MDF panels, OEM drivers and crossovers (usually 'minimalist', 'first-order' ones, which is an euphemism for skimping on parts, as you rightly point out). Then they veneer the boxes with 'exotic' wood sheets and there it is - a so-called high-end loudspeaker that was built for $100, but sold for $10,000! A fast way to get rich, I admit, but one I'd not necessarily endorse...
Don't even get me started on loudspeaker cables and interconnects. The only honest high-end cable manufacturer I know is a famous Utah-based one, but even their 'Select' products are decidedly OTT and far too expensive. (Besides, who wants a speaker cable that can be mistaken for a fire hose?)
My thoughts on Hi-Fi were heavily influenced by the late John Crabbe, who vigorously busted the superstitions about high-end in his HFNRR column. His was a simple, no-nonsense approach - the opposite of most high-end manufacturers. It's all to easy to be deceived by claims of superior sound quality, especially when some audiophiles have been brainwashed into accepting useless features. Biwiring is a point in case: its so-called benefits are largely the result of self-suggestion.
Don't forget, however, that there are high-end loudspeaker manufacturers making great entry-level products. Think ProAc, Sonus Faber or Vienna Acoustics: their smaller speakers are as exquisitely built as their top of the range. Expensive, surely, but not too much so - and at least you can see (and hear) where your money went to. I own a pair of ProAc Tablette 50s which I bought in 1999 and, although their treble is a bit fatiguing by today's standards, they never gave me any trouble and still work beautifully.

Sure is fun having nice speakers,, real speakers. I am maintaining a pair of B & W DM14's from the 80's. I love them. I've been on the hunt for a parts pair so I can salvage the tweeters..I've repaired both of mine and this will not work a second time around.

Turn 'em up!!

Yeah, Mike. I promised myself I would try to shut up, but I couldn't help wondering whatever possessed you to buy those dogs.

In 45 years of hi-fi and professional audio as a tech at a TV station, I feel I have a bit of experience and knowledge.

At the station, JBL 4315s and 4311s. I didn't make the final decisions, but I chose the candidates and I was so confident that I told the chief engineer, "money back guarantee!" I have never heard such amazing transient response. Clang of a sword? Crack of a rifle? Thud of a drum? Bang on!

Yes, cold, clinical, not to everyone's taste, but so accurate! That's what we needed - total transparency, so that we could be sure we were hearing the truth. I wish I had a pair now, I really do.

My home speakers? KEF Q7s in the lounge, Tannoy Mercury M2s in the day room and KEF Coda 7s on the desktop PC. Lovely musical sound. The Tannoys, especially, have been with me for 15 years and I don't hear them, I just hear the music. I'm a happy man.

The Q7s are interesting. They're made in China, yet contain the B200 drivers and the B139 concentric mid/uppers and HF units sitting on top. The cabinets are curved, by saw cuts.

In about 2004, my dog knocked one over and it fell against a window frame (I forgave her! My beloved Border Collie.)

Even with such a relatively small knock, the cabinet split slightly along a seam and the MF unit stopped working.

I took it to a speaker repair firm in my city run by a woman called Anne. She wore overalls! She was a very unusual woman. I thought she was rather nice, actually.

Anyway, the knock/fall had displaced the cone of the MF speaker so much that it was locked against the magnet. So much for robustness. I was not impressed.

At first I was told, no parts available, but she agreed to have a go - as I said, so what have I got to lose? If a repair fails, I'm no worse off.

The good news was that she managed to "re-cone" it and it's working fine, although I'll never know if it sounds exactly the same.

However, this famous KEF name, so glowingly reviewed that I bought without hesitation, is actually quite flimsy. The speaker frames are quite lightweight pressed steel, the cones were easily displaced and the cabinets are quite lightweight.

But they sound OK, so I'll have to live with them. I can no longer afford to change them and there are no longer any hi-fi shops to listen to potential rivals anyway. Hi-fi is dead, I think. The mini-unit multi-channel plastic speaker marvel rules.

Oh, yeah, almost forgot. A friend has a pair of B&W 801s and if I can, I may, one day, buy a pair of QUAD ELS speakers or their modern counterparts.

I also used to own a pair of B&W Model 70s, electrostatic mid/top arrays combined with 12" bass units in a HUGE cabinet.

Like a fool, I sold them to a friend who simply stripped and re-varnished the cabinets and sold them on for about double what he paid me! Great mate.

Those ELS top arrays were only rated at 30W, btw. I used to turn the wick up and sparks jumped, punching holes like bullet holes in the PCB substrates.

I used to take them apart (nothing to lose, remember?) and clean the carbon rimmed holes with methylated spirits. Put them back together and away they went. Great fun.

Similarly with the bass units. The 12" bass cones were loaded with rubber blocks. These dried out and fell off, and eventually the bass cones themselves disintegrated around the rims. (I'm talking 1970 to 1986.)

I looked up the Q, resonant freq. and other characteristics and chose replacement bass units from I think, Scan Audio or ScanDyna or something? I have no idea whether they sounded exactly the same, but they worked, so that was that. What fun!

So what about the issue of matching drive units to the cabinet? Is that mainly for bass or was the cabinet the correct size for the new drivers used? Or is it another piece of hifi folklore?

richardplondon,
Maybe I should have said "most speakers sound okay at medium volumes. Not very many sound good at high volume." It's true that at very low levels dynamics tend to collapse. Here again we're the victim of "minimalism"--most preamps used to have loudness compensation, which provided boost at the frequency extremes for very low-level listening. (And, come to think, most preamps used to have headphone jacks, which is another solution for life in flats). Now the fashion is for "preamps" that are nothing but line-level switching boxes (i.e., no phono inputs) that have no controls except switching betwixt a few inputs, and volume. Some have even tried to eliminate even those by putting the controls in the handset and leaving them off the faceplate of the box. Bah. Two marques that make preamps with adequate controls are Accuphase (Japan) and Mcintosh (USA, although of Japanese ownership), but unfortunately both of those are extremely expensive brands. It's true that good implementation of control circuits are expensive and can be detrimental if not needed. But it would be great to have more choices amongst full-featured preamps.

"I agree that speakers break the general rule: normally you want to buy the second cheapest. Here you want to buy the second most expensive."

That's a good way to put it. I'll quote you.

Mike

So when you say you could walk there, I'm assuming that being American you still drove there anyway?

I joke. Just remembering Bill Bryson's astonishment that his next door neighbours drove to his house for dinner in the US.

A wonderful story Mike.

So... if I'm basically a good guy who gets swindled by both a manufacturer (primarily) and a (rueful) first owner on some used gear, and then rather than throw it all right back, I seek out a solution... I'll find local "technical leprechauns" to sprinkle fairy dust on my woes?

If that's the case, maybe I will buy a Pentacon Six!

.....Hey Mike.....if we ever meet we might have to look in the mirror to see how different we are. Your posts continue to be the best for me. And of course the main reason is that we share so many interest and I am always impressed by your thoughts and fine writing.
Audio has always been a passion and I have built both speakers and amps. The photo of your early crossover reveals as you well know pure junk.....hell you can see the result of your loose wire.....blob soldering. I recently purchased a Burson Audio dac/headphone amp and looking under the hood is a wonderland of intelligent design and construction.....and the sound!
Anyway, check out Charlie Hunter's" Fine Corinthian Leather" on your improved speakers.


Hmm, methinks the status ranking applies to cameras as well.

One may also assume that there is some serious short-cutting in the "unseen" internals of budget cameras. I would be amazed if not.

Mike,

Do these gentleman sell their speakers at retail to folks outside their local area? Just asking because now that I wear the incredible Lyric hearing aids, I can now begin to enjoy music again :)

Ed,
That can be important, but more so for the low frequency drivers. We left the manufacturer's woofer units (two per side) alone.

Mike

"Scan Audio or ScanDyna or something?"

Peter,
I can think of Scan-Speak and Dynaudio, two driver manufacturers.

Mike

"So when you say you could walk there, I'm assuming that being American you still drove there anyway? I joke."

Lazy,
I did. Of course, I also had to transport two 70-lbs. speakers, which would have been a bit beyond my capabilities on foot.

Mike

Look at the photo of the broken solder joint again. The 2 wires are soldered BUT they never were soldered to the copper tab. Its Clean!!

That means the speakers were never even turned on to test them! A common procedure in consumer electronics.

I am an electronics engineer ( medica sensors etc). We all laught at the $1,000 wires to connect "high end" stuff.

Mike,
We once had a "enchanted leprechaun" in the photo industry. His name was Marty Forscher.
Your explaination and anology of crossovers... ("think shadows, midtowns, and highlights respectively")was spot on!
David


You mentioned the decline of audio stores, so I can claim this comment is on topic.

A few years ago an older friend asked if I'd accompany her to buy a new stereo system. We headed to a high-end audio boutique, and a salesman led us to a medium price, name-brand system. To demonstrate the sound, he put a Barbara Streisand album on the turntable (it was that long ago) and set the needle down. And the sound was horrible, just awful. All the highs were badly distorted, as if a wad of dust were on the needle. My guess was the record was badly worn or the needle was damaged.

I cringed and expected the sale guy to quickly snatch up the tonearm and apologize. But when I looked over at him, he was smiling and nodding along with the music. "Beautiful, right?" He couldn't hear the problem. Totally deaf to it.

We made our way to another shop, but my confidence in the wisdom of audio salespeople was forever shattered.

Hey Mike, saw your last featured comment and thought I would pass along that Holm Audio is still here and one of the few sources for all things Audio I trust. Audio Consultants is another, they being a bit more "mainstream" as in B&W etc. Holm has a great selection of tube gear.

"Mike, We once had a 'enchanted leprechaun' in the photo industry. His name was Marty Forsher."

David,
See here....

Mike

MarkB,
Yes, this is far from the optimum way to buy speakers. Very far.

Mike

Hi Mike:

A very interesting read; I’m sure you will be happy with your speakers and I look forward to Part III of your story. You mentioned that Audio Ventures is famous for restoring old JBLs, that reminded me of a experience I had with JBL. In 1971, I purchased two JBL Lancer L77 speakers for the princely sum of $200 each (keep in mind that $200 was 1/10 the cost of a new Volkswagen in those days). Some 25 years later, the foam which suspends the speakers and passive radiators (had to have a booming bass in that era) had disintegrated. When I made the purchase in 1971, JBL speakers came with a lifetime warranty and sure enough, JBL arranged to have the speakers repaired for free. I still use those speakers today and have added a pair of SVA 1800s.

Tom

Mike, without question I would say that you took the more adventurous path, which any real audio enthusiast should. The -real- audio enthusiast enjoys exploring, risk taking, and experimentation. The end result of the enjoyment of music is the goal, not prestige or amount of money spent. In the process you found a golden resource, and I would imagine a great acquaintance, in Bill Waara.

I enjoy music through a pawn shop find, a pair of boutique two way mini monitors from Mach One Audio, a long gone small manufacturer. This $90 investment netted me a pair of solid cabinets that are over 1.5" thick, containing SEAS and Dynaudio drivers and crossovers made with the same care as your new ones.

Happy listening!

Just looking and realised my home stereo is all vintage British: Rega ELA speakers, Musical Fidelity X-Cans headphone amp, Moth 30 series pre- and power-amp by Stan Curtis http://www.stancurtis.com/downloads.htm and a Musical Fidelity E624 CD player. Somewhere there is a Rega Planar 2 turntable in need of rehabilitation. In the attic there is also a Nytech CTA252 receiver http://www.hifivintage.eu/product.php?id_product=211 brilliant compact design, hideous dust trap though.

I love your infrequent audiophile posts, and particularly this one.

Sixteen years ago I moved out of home and spent a goodly proportion of all my money on a stereo. I didn't call myself an audiophile then (or now), but I knew I couldn't stand listening to the crap reproduction that the rest of my mates seemed happy with.

After spending a few weeks in the local library perusing the last two years worth of reviews from a variety of audio magazines pitched at 20-something year old men like myself - and thus armed with sufficient understanding of the lingo to know if I was being completely hoodwinked - I visited a few audio specialists. I could certainly tell which setup I preferred at any one store, but I couldn't say with any confidence whether I preferred my favourite from Store A, or my favourite from Store B that I'd listened to three days later.

Eventually I settled on a store and it came down to three sets of floorstanders. Two were low- to mid-range models from B&W and Mission, two brands that certainly had had good reviews both for these respective speakers and their higher-end models (including the outrageous-looking Nautilus). The third pair were hardly an unknown brand - Sony - but I'd never read any reviews about Sony speakers, let alone about these SS-F60 models from their "ES" range.

In the end I trusted my ears, and my eyes, and ignored any "status ranking". They're really solid German-made units with real wood veneer which, if nothing else, were clearly built to a different standard than the cheap-looking, vinyl-covered lightweight boxes from the other two brands. They're a closed-port 4-driver, 3-way design, and they're so solidly built that short of simply removing the drivers I'm not even sure that you could open them up.

Sixteen years later I still think they sound great, and being so rare that they barely even show up on the internet, short of coming to my house for a listen nobody can tell me I'm wrong!

monocrystalline silver cables ;-)

Michael,
I remember those. I believe they used Vifa drivers, and more interestingly they are a true acoustic suspension design, which is getting very rare these days especially for full-sized speakers. I personally really love the bass of acoustic suspension speakers so I'd probably like yours.

Mike

I used to love the eccentric audio shops that seemed to be intentionally hidden or disguised. Long ago I used to frequent Read Brothers in Charleston, SC, which was a massive fabric store, and way in the back off to the side was a nice mid-range audio shop, with knowledgeable and polite (and slightly opinionated) folks that would set up the speakers that interested you in the listening area, close the door to the fabric side, and put on the LP that you'd brought and let you alone for a good listen.

I'm starting to think there is good audio karma working in Wisconsin.

http://www.madisound.com/

Me, I'm still running some nice Advents I found in a thrift store for next to nothing. How odd it is that the only new audio component I've purchased in the last 25 years is a turntable.

Custom (or DIY) is really the ultimate way to go in high end audio, it is at the top of the food chain, regardless of price or brand, especially for relatively simple things like tube gear, speakers, turntables, etc.

That said, I am sure you are doing the best you can with these speakers, but I would have cut my losses, punted them and started over. Life is too short to listen to compromised, crap gear. In the end, even with the mods, there's always nagging questions, like how good are the woofers? How many compromises in this cabinet?

Ed

Thanks, Mike, for posting the picture of the original crossover. I had to enlarge it to believe it, because I've rarely if ever seen anything as crude. Whereas the Audio Ventures one is a beauty to behold.

Speaking of which, I am convinced that the kind of store run by Bill Waara and Andy is the future of the audio trade, if there is to be any, and not the past. No box mover outfit, except possibly Amazon, is large enough not to be undercut and outsold by cheaper competition. At some point most people simply won't have enough money left to throw away on cheap crap, let alone on expensive crap. That's where quality, competence, sustainability, and old-fashioned concepts like long-term repairs and maintenance re-enter the scene. The problem is how to help keep stores like Audio Ventures in business until crunch time.

Ed,
The cabinets are why we decided to go this route. They're beautiful. I speculated in my original post that they were probably sourced on the cheap in China and built to spec, but they're built like bricks, very sturdy and solid, and the veneer work is splendid. I'll get to the sound of the speakers in my next post on this subject.

Mike

I'll be honest and say TL:DR the whole article. But I did look at the pictures, and I can tell you that the reason that solder joint failed is because it was a cold solder, and that there's WAY too much solder on all of the joints. This tells me that it was mass produced using folks who were handed a soldering pencil, a roll of flux core lead solder, and shown once what to do. They probably didn't have active, negative-flow ventilation, and will probably get inhaled lead poisoning in a few years.

What really gets me is that for a few cents more per set of speakers, they could have solderless crimp connectors. Instead of hot, electrified solder pencils and toxic heavy metals, they could have connections that can be put in place in seconds, without burns or illness among their workers.

Upon reflection, the company that "made" your speakers probably bought the assembly from a factory, and installed it. They are buying from a company that places profit over their workers' health and safety.

Much like the Apple iPad.

How do I know this? I used to be an electro-mechanical assembly tech, a skill I learned in the US Navy.

Mike, your analysis about the price/performance of brands and where the model stands within the respective lines is dead on. The top model or two within the line is the designer's model. It's the one which he (or she, as I know of one) has in their own home. Many years ago, I stayed overnight in the home of the chief designer for a very popular (but much malaligned brand amongst the snooties) brand. His listening room was glorious and probably among the top two in the world. His boss had the better one, of course.

So, here are a pair of speakers--almost straight off the factory floor. The only variation was a different guage wire inside the cabinets. A change he was trialing for a future release.

The secret ingredient to the amazing sound I heard? It wasn't the $1500 (at that time) cabinets. It was probably the $250,000 room.

A few years ago I embarked on an incremental step in my quest to get a decent home cinema setup (typical story - first connect the stereo speakers, then get some rears, then a centre, then a sub-woofer). In my case, it is so far about 8 years to achieve a 5.0 setup, because life, family and school fees get in the way. I doubt I will ever get to 5.1, as my wife has ears like a.... (what is the most hearing animal in the world? Don't know).

Anyway, even with 5.0 with the volume on about 0.5 out of 20, she has the capacity to arrive angrily in the doorway and ask me to turn the volume down, so I doubt a sub woofer is ever going to be bought, because that would be divorce city.

But my centre speaker. Oh my, what a total beauty. A Focal JMLab Chorus 800CC, which was double my budget, but I had my eye on one, and went in and bought it after the company Christmas lunch when my judgement was probably alcohol impaired. I don't regret it at all. In fact, I have adjusted the AV amp settings to slightly lower the output to the stereo pair and the rears, because the sound from that Focal is just so wonderful.

it all comes down to what goes through the speakers Beethoven through a tin can and string is still Beethoven

Many years ago I walked into a high end audio store, which was owned by an honest audio expert. He demonstrated the Advent 300 receiver used as a preamp with an inexpensive tube amplifier and a pair of Magnepan speakers. I was immediately stunned by the clearness of the sound. I already owned the speakers so I bought the Advent 300 and a used tube amp, a factory built Dynaco. It was an amazing combo that I enjoyed for many years. Twenty eight years later I am still enjoying the Magnepan speakers. Unfortunately the Advent had one channel that died as did the Dynaco.

Shadows, midtones and highlights. Bass, mid, and treble.

This is how I describe photography to my audio engineer mate. After all, both involve the capture of waveforms of varying frequency.

Mike:
Obviously the decision to reconstruct was a sound (pun intended) decision.
Good audio shops exist and all do have quirks which can annoy or not annoy customers.

Here in Burlington, Fairview HiFI has been in business longer than I care to think and Larry and his staff are excellent. From there: Bryston amp and pre-amp, my Magna Dynalab tuner, and antennas, my Paradign 2 speakers, a used Linn Turntable and yes
too my speciality then Panasonic cassette decks, now replaced by Tascam rack mounted record and transcibe CD devices.

Oh and always a friendly smile and assistance. Small shop, superb service. Ironically I rarely go there now, when your equipment does what it is supposed to do, like digital cameras, once sold, rarely seen again.

Mike,

No pictures ? ;)

Of the place I mean *ahem*

Yes, Mike, ScanSomething - some memories are crystal clear, others are mush. No matter. I should also have mentioned the design parameters of Theile and Small, two Aussie engineer/scientists from the CSIRO who revolutionised crossover and speaker design in the late 1970s and 1980s. I wasn't that much expert, but I do remember how important some specifications became and the way those parameters started to be quoted in the manufacturers' spec sheets.

Also, TV audio was mono when we bought those early 4315s in the 1970s. I think we bought two pairs and simply put one speaker of each pair in the video and audio control rooms respectively! How simple life was then.

NB: in TV and radio broadcast, 'nice' sound does not rate. Accuracy and transparency are what matters. If there's hum there, we need to hear it. Any hiss, crackles, distortion? We need to know. No masking, please. Only the facts.

We changed to stereo TV audio around 1985 (can you imagine? Duplicate the entire audio system of a TV station, entirely in balanced pairs, therefore requiring to maintain phase throughout. And stay on air while we were doing it. It was a massive job, taking about a year, with months of planning, everything documented, all cables numbered, wiring protocols observed.)

That required more 4315s, of course, and true pairs this time, so we bought another four pairs, I think, making 6 pairs in total. (I think they cost about $3,000 a pair. A Sony grade 1 precision fine pitch Trinitron colour monitor cost around $7,000 and we had dozens of those.)

Finding space in control rooms for such large speakers, properly placed, was no easy matter either. Audio control rooms, in particular, are not big rooms! The audio operator is right up close to the window into the vision control room so he can see the director. Placing large monitor speakers was always a big compromise. Control rooms meant purely for audio are a different matter - the speakers can be placed way out front.

In TV also, we have the concept of "degraded monitoring". We need to recognise that 99% of people were listening to our sound through tinny 4" speakers in their receivers. Therefore we used small, commercially made boxed speakers of about 5" diameter as the degraded monitors (the name escapes me). They sounded surprisingly good and we used dozens of them. We only listened on the big JBLs for the initial mix and for fault checking.

I retired from the station in 1999 and as it is now simply an ignored outpost of an arrogant Sydney network, I think those 4315s may be gathering dust in storage. Time I paid a visit, I think ...

Buying my KEF Q7s was a fun exercise too. It was March 2003 and I had a hell of a job finding someone in this city of 1.2m people who stocked them. It turned out to be our official Sony Shop!

I was pretty sure they were my chosen darlings from magazine reviews, but I'd never heard them so asked for a demo. Um, yeah, sure, come this way.

I was led to a room which was almost cubical, all sides same measurements. There was a pair on the "stage" but they were different cabinet colours - one black ash, one apple veneer.

The salesman put a CD on and it was metal/electronic/rock something or other. They sounded awful - weird, phasey, diffuse sound. I said, er, haven't you got some classical or orchestral music? Um, no actually. This is the only CD we've got.

WHAAAT?? "OK, I'm going to walk down the street and buy a couple of CDs of music I know. I'll be back in an hour or two, and in the meantime, I want a matching pair set up for me to listen to." Yes sir.

I came back with a couple of Decca and Philips CDs of Sibelius and Vaughan Williams and had another try. This time the music was there, but they still sounded odd. I had a very knowledgeable audio workmate with me and we both looked at each other in dismay. I got up and tried to look at the cables to check phasing, but in this dim room it was hard to see any markings.

To cut the story short, I had nowhere else to go, so despite my misgivings, and insisting on getting a matched pair with consecutive serial numbers, I pledged the plastic and took the punt. Apple veneer.

I've still got them and I would describe the sound as "adequate". I was using a Pioneer 5.1 channel amp but I strongly suspect it was not a good match, so I sold it on (too complex to use anyway!)

At this moment, I don't have an amp for them, but I'll be moving for the last time to a retirement village in the next few months and will make another attempt to get them to sing for me. I have high hopes.

Mike,
I couldn't help to noticed that the speaker underneath those 3 ways you heard also sound good real loud too. My ears gave out before those Klipschorns did. I wish I had some proper corners.

"normally you want to buy the second cheapest. Here you want to buy the second most expensive."

When a post-grad I was shown how to eat out in Europe. Look at the menus then go into the most expensive restaurant that you fancy but plan on eating the cheaper things on the menu. Cooking and ingredients are the same just less polished or exotic. (An alternative of this is to eat where cab drivers and workmen eat.)

Staying on topic, find an artisan speaker builder and discover which are the cheapest services he can do for you.

Well, whoever it was who said that "happiness writes white" (i.e. doesn't have the same impact on the page as misery) clearly hadn't read you waxing lyrical about your speaker issues. Lovely post Mike - thanks.

Like richardplondon I live in a flat in London and there's no way I could listen to high quality speakers at anything near the volume required to get things sounding good without messing my neighbours about unacceptably. As a result I've invested heavily in a good headphone dac/preamp (Red Wine Audio Isabellina HPA specially moded to work with a Wadia 170i digital transport and Audeze's LCD-3 headphones. Coupled with well recorded music the set up is magical.

Regarding Mike's comment about the disappearing headphone jacks, headphone amps built into most "hifi" amps, receivers, smartphones, etc are generally lousy as they're a bit of an afterthought. Same is true of taking music out through the headphone jack of an iPod. Much better to use what's known as an LOD (line out dock) a cable that takes its signal directly from the internal DAC of an iPod (you can Google them). Even better are docks like my Wadia which work under a special license from Apple. These docks take the iPod digital source of 1's and 0's and bypass all the internal electronics of an iPod and output them to a DAC (digital analog converter), hopefully a high quality one.

There are a host of good quality headphone amps available today over a wide range of prices, even relatively modest prices (google Filo). Portable headphone amps combined with an iPod type thing using high quality encoding like AAC or FLACK coupled with quality earphones can be quite rewarding. A set up like mine above is as good as a hifi speaker/amp/source set up costing many times as much though of course you don't get the visceral body perceptions of deep loud base.

All that being said I'm lucky enough to get to go listen to some of the world's great symphony orchestras at the Royal Philharmonic Hall and Barbican Centre in London and there's nothing like a live performance. Providing the guy next to you doesn't smell like he hasn't bathed in a week or have post nasal drip.

A good source for info on headphones and amps is http://www.head-fi.org

As written by me in the comments to your last post:

"I foresee you getting a partial refund, and rebuilding these speakers with new electronics and drive units, making the most of the admittedly beautiful cabinets. Will wait for the next instalment..."

Glad to read you followed my predictions to the letter :-)

And it's also good to see those (in)famous cabinets in the flesh. Nicely bookmatched. Hope you're happy with the eventual sound. Incidentally I rather like the appearance of Bill Waara's medium-sized three-ways; the modest composite front panel, the lack of branding, the anonymous drive units: rather a desirable pair of speakers in a geeky-looking way.

You may judge your level of influence on the internet by the increase in Bill's bank balance over the coming months!

"You may judge your level of influence on the internet by the increase in Bill's bank balance over the coming months!"

martsharm,
Maybe not...readers only listen to me when the topic is photography...but I was standing in the showroom at Audio Ventures yesterday and Bill left to answer the phone. He came back in and said "It's for you." That was a surprise! Turned out it was a friend who read about him on TOP and called. When he mentioned that, Bill said "He's standing right here. Want to talk to him?"

Mike

P.S. Yes, your prediction was bang on!

Your crossover photos reminded me of the beautiful circuitry that Tektronix used in their oscilloscopes in my youth. A short web search brought up this example. http://w140.com/tekwiki/images/thumb/3/34/Tek_545b_top.jpg/1280px-Tek_545b_top.jpg Notice how many of the components are simply laid out in parallel, with straight leads crossing from one ceramic strip to another. You can't tell by looking, but those solder joints are made with specially formulated silver-bearing solder. These scopes were the backbone of the electronics industry, and many are still fully functional today.

Aaaah, Tektronix. What a wonderful company. Even back in the 1960s and early 1970s, their construction and build quality were way ahead of their times. Way out here in Australia, I used to marvel at it. Yes, silver based solder and parallel tag strips. Hard to work on, but the point was, they never faulted! Like Toyotas. We had dozens of RM529s and later, 528s, 141s, 145s and 148s (waveform monitors and test signal generators/SPGs). I can actually have one of those beautiful pieces of gear free if I want it - the station has no use for analogue gear any more.

I revered Tektronix and Ampex. HP was also a GREAT COMPANY in those days. The epitome of good design. If you used HP, you could be confident.

Then the money people got in there and destroyed them! Tektronix survives ....

Those were the days!

Sounds like the Room of Requirement to me!

"Sounds like the Room of Requirement to me!"

Ah, I missed a trick...I should have thought to call them "wizards" instead of "lephrechauns." Fits much better.

Mike

Mike, to say that you got lucky finding that audio shop is of course an understatement.

Regarding the new crossovers, yes they look good. And the main caps have bypass caps? Very cool; I'd only seen that done before on amplifier power supplies.

I inherited a set of McIntosh XR-14s and rebuilt the crossovers and re-foamed the woofers myself, replacing the crossover parts likely to have gone out of spec (i.e. the electrolytic caps) and can appreciate the effort that goes into such a design.

These things look like normal '70s speakers but have so much cabinet bracing that they weigh "twice as much" as you'd expect. They "beam" a bit compared to modern speakers but are otherwise quite worthy of modding and upgrades.

I've read both articles concerning these speakers but still don't see the value in keeping the speakers' identity a secret. Even if the original manufacturer has since mended their ways these things are obviously still in the wild.

You'd warn your friend or neighbor about these, why are we any different?

I also take some exception to your assertion that staying away from the low end of a high-end company's wares is "sound" advice. In my experience each model is considered on its own merits.

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