Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pioneer SPEC 4 Amp Repair

I first saw and heard a SPEC system set up back in 1980 when I was stationed in Guam while in the Air Force. I never forgot it and 20 something years later, I finally got a chance to get my hands on a SPEC 1 pre-amp and a SPEC 4 power amp in very good condition. I had already had the other pieces of my system and was using a nice Pioneer SA-9500 II to power the restored Bose 901 Series IV's, which took me the better part of a month to bring them back from the dead. When I hooked up the SPEC 1 and 4, there was no comparsion. The depth and clarity of the music that the SPEC components produced went way beyond what the 9500 II could muster. I was in heaven...... for a while. About six months later, I got up one morning and went to turn on some tunes like I did every morning and flipped the power amp switch on and nothing. No lights, no nothing. I knew I was in trouble. I live in North Alabama and there was no repair shop anywhere around here that was capable of this kind of work, but I took a chance and carried it to a local electronic shop anyway, mostly out of desperation. Here, let me give a word of advice to anyone who needs a vintage stereo component repaired: if the place you take it to has alot of TV's sitting out, turn around and walk back out the door you came in. That guy kept it a month and was no closer to repairing it than the day I brought it in. Finally, I'd had enough and starting looking around on the net for a real repair shop to ship it to. I looked a several ads and read their sales pitch and then I saw and read the reviews for Austin Stereo Repair in Austin, Texas and knew this was the place I wanted to work on my SPEC 4. Mike, the guy who runs the shop, was very nice and kept me informed of everything and every step of the repair process that he was making. The turn around time was a bit longer but that was entirely my fault. He told me exactly how to pack the amp to ship to him and like a idiot, I didn't listen to him and tried to save a few bucks by not wrapping it in bubble wrap. The amp arrived with a busted bumper on the back. It could have been alot worse and I learned my lesson. If you ship to him and he tells you how to pack it, take my advice; do it! Finally, I got it back and let me tell you, I cannot write a good enough review for the work Mike performed. It sounds better than it did before it died! Also, this guy must be a clean freak because you can eat off the inside of this amp! Austin Stereo has my business from now on. Thanks Mike!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Encore from Gothenburg

Johan Persson has kindly provided several more photos of his collection.

First up are a pair of snapshots of the diminutive component that I commented on in the earlier post. It is another marque that I have never encountered (or even heard of!): Skantic. I love the simple elegance of these northern European designs. I must say I am still a bit perplexed as to whether this is actually an integrated amp or a preamp. The bird logo is very reminiscent of Fisher. The legend above the knobs and switches just cracks me up. I would guess volume, balance, bass, treble, phono, tape, radio (duh), and power...

The single external transistor really has me puzzled. It says stereo on the front??!! I really need to know my Din connectors better to sort all this out. It also seems to have 3 fuses, generous for such a tiny package. Update: it was actually easier to see via the blog. Interesting. The speaker connectors are far right and left, above the fuses. And Mike says the single external transistor is part of the regulator...

And last, but not least, is an absolutely gorgeous Ravensbourne tuner/integrated pairing from Rogers, down Angleterre way. From the photo Johan has the original literature as well. I am incredibly jealous.

The large screen on top of the tuner case would suggest this is a tube tuner?? It would seem to have a tuning eye to the right of the scale. These are just lovely. My semi-useless Orion Blue Book lists the amp as being produced from '73 to '77. I have my doubts, these would seem to be earlier items. I recall this is Orion's default time frame for those moments when they are clueless. Time to email Johan for some more information...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Goteborg Chapter

It seems The Stereo Club has a previously unknown chapter in Goteborg, Sweden.

Goteborg, city of the Goths, and otherwise known as Gothenburg to those of us in the states, is a nicely sized city of half a million on the southwest coast of Sweden. It is home to the largest university in Scandinavia, as well as the bands Ace of Base and The Soundtrack of Our Lives. (Hmm, not so different from Austin, Texas.) I confess the former band is a guilty pleasure and the latter is a not so guilty pleasure.

I have recently had the pleasure of exchanging emails with Johan Persson, an avid collector of '70s stereo components from Gothenburg. Johan has a very substantial collection of Pioneer, Marantz, and Tandberg equipment, as you can see from the following. First up, Pioneer::

Here is a stack of Marantz gear:

And a very tasty selection of Tandberg equipment:

I really need to find out what the little amp on top is. I am a sucker for smallish Euro amps.

Johan says this is a stack of a Swedish DIY kit amps sold in the '70s under the names Sentec and Semicon:

I have never seen these before.

And some Akai gear:

All the above are normal obsessions, although in total perhaps a bit extreme. My wife sends her condolences to Johan's wife. However, the following obsession with headphones is new to me. I have the normal 7 or 8 headphones. This is truly impressive:

Johan: thanks for the photos! And welcome to The Stereo Club!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Apex Jr.: Your Source for Affordable Electronics

About a year ago I was poking along down the Information Highway, doing a bit of research on the Realistic Minimus 7 loudspeaker. I stumbled into a thread on AudioKarma that suggested an interesting tweeter replacement could be found at a site called Apex Jr. ApexJr.?? Whatever is an Apex Jr.? I followed the link and answered that question.

It turns out that Apex Jr. is the nom de web of Steve Slater. Steve is pretty much a lifelong veteran of the electronic surplus business and "Apex Jr." was originally how he answered the phone as a kid at his father's surplus business, Apex Electronics. About 16 years ago Steve started his own business and those of us with gear to fix (or build) are the beneficiaries.

Apex Jr. is an online electronic surplus store that specializes in audio components. Steve has a healthy selection of subwoofer amplifiers (see this earlier post), including both the Miller and Kreisel 150 watt and 250 watt units. For the speaker builders and restorers among you he has a host of speaker parts including drivers, binding posts, capacitors, resistors, and wire. Like all good surplus stores he has his share of those uncategorizable items that make for a fun browse. Here is a sampling of some of my recent purchases from Apex Jr.:

Starting from 12 o'clock: a BMI 33mfd/450v axial capacitor; a Nichicon 12000mfd/50v capacitor; a truly huge rubber foot; rca connectors with strain relief; a pair of heavy duty speaker binding posts; a Nippon Chemi-Con 15000mfd/63v capacitor. In the center is the Sonance tweeter that can be used with the Realistic Minimus 7.

Steve's prices are extremely reasonable and the quality of the merchandise is first rate. The 15000mfd caps above are a huge bargain at $2.99. They are a no-brainer power supply upgrade for a significant number of '70s receivers. The binding posts are very heavy duty, and are much better than replacement quality.

I highly recommend the 16 piece test lead set for $9.99 pictured here. Mike's comment on seeing mine: 'That's old school.'

I have placed 3 orders with Steve and each has arrived within 2-3 business days, nicely packed. Steve takes credit cards, but has to charge a 3% upcharge to keep his overhead low.

Give Steve a call at 866-4-ApexJr. For those of us more numerically oriented that is (866) 427-3957. Oddly enough, he does not list his business hours. I know he has customers as far away as New Zealand, so I bet he gets phone calls at some very odd hours.

Steve is based in La Crescenta, California. His main warehouse (of 3) is located by the 2 and 210 freeways and vistors are welcome, although by appointment. It should be noted that Steve has many more items than those displayed on his web site. Here is just a portion of one warehouse:

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Call Me Lightning: the Pioneer SA-606 Integrated Amplifier

Dum Dum Dum Do Day
Dum Dum Dum Do Day

See that girl who's smiling so brightly,
Dum Dum Dum Do Day

Well I reckon she's cool and I reckon rightly,
Dum Dum Dum Do Day

She's good looking and I ain't frightened,
Dum Dum Dum Do Day

I'm gonna show you why they call me lightning.
Dum Dum Dum Do Day

This particular Pioneer integrated amp is called Lightning because that’s what blew it up.

This SA-606 was born somewhere around 1973 (Orion is clueless) and died violently in what Mike delicately terms ‘an event’. That event took out half the power supply diodes and every single transistor short of the outputs, tone control circuit included. This amp probably should not have been restored based purely on cost benefit. It ran away on the Sencore, so we pulled the nicely mounted heatsink, and tested the outputs. They were intact so we figured re-cap it and figure it out from there. After my re-cap and Mike walking through transistor carnage we found ourselves committed to a very significant cost in time and parts.

Yes, even the little 3-legged beasties in the tone cardlet at the front left were torched. All caps were replaced except for the relatively modest main filters. This was a relatively easy amp to work on, but Pioneer made the bottom cover too small and several caps were very difficult to reach.

The interesting thing about the effort is the end product was essentially an electronic clean slate up to the outputs, lots of new parts in an old box. So, how does it sound?

Very, very good it turns out. This amp is not a power house, but it is a very lively performer and well suited to a bit of Cobwebs and Strange. Now where is that Who CD? Entwhistle’s bass leads on ‘Happy Jack’ or ‘Call Me Lightning’ are running through my head now hours after crappy YouTube renditions. Ahh, the sacrifices my art demands.

Anyway, this SA-606 is a bit rough around the edges cosmetically, but it sounds great.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The JVC JR-S200 Receiver

Ah, here we have yet another under appreciated Japanese receiver manufacturer. JVC's styling is, er, distinctive, and I confess not to my taste until recently. But I have a new found appreciation of this line after working on this unit and also getting a gander of the very impressive JR-S600. The S200 is 2nd in the line that extends from the S100 through the S600, and is listed at 35 watts per side. Orion says it was sold from '76 to '80 and retailed for $300.

While a bit glitzy and slider-dominated it is a handsome unit to my newly acclimated eye. The thumb wheel tuner is a bit angled and much smaller than that of the Marantz tuners and receivers of the era. The end caps are interesting, sort of plasticky, faux heat sinkish. Definitely, the JVC designers were not running with the Pioneer/Marantz/Yamaha crowd with wood cases.

Wow, my photo skilz were not exactly shining the day I took these snapshots. The chassis was not too bad to work on although there were a few difficult to change caps on the amp board at the right. The tuners are in the center; the phono section in the center, back right, just to the left of the heat sink. I replaced 57 caps with Panasonic FCs. Then Mike pointed out that there were 4 more buried in the tone control board mounted vertically in the front, behind the sliders. That board was a bit of a challenge.

The JVC is a perky sounding little receiver. It is not exactly a powerhouse, but has enough slam to sound better than 30 watts should. Pick one of these up if you find one. If you ever stumble across the big brother S600, buy it in a heartbeat. It is one seriously flashy, large receiver and at 120 watts per channel can run with any of the big dogs.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Nikko NR 815 Receiver

Nikko is one of the underrated receiver manufacturers of the vintage era. Their build quality is very good, their styling has held up well, and they are very easy on the ears. They tend to be undervalued on ebay, a shame. The Alpha/Beta/Gamma series of separates from Nikko does garner a reasonable amount of respect, however.

This NR 815 was an ebay purchase and it worked well out of the box (always a worry.) The trusty Orion Blue Book says it was manufactured between '77 and '82. I suspect that range is a bit wide, but close enough. The 815 seems to have been the middle of a very broad offering with the 315 being the entry level and the 1415 being the top of the line. When I grow up I want an NR 1415 with 175 watts per channel! The NR 815 has 55 watts and retailed at a hefty $470. This is a largish receiver:

Large usually makes it easy to work on:

The 815 is fairly well laid out with one major exception. The phono section, situated, as usual, in the back right of the chassis, sits underneath the tuning capacitor. Whatever was Nikko thinking? One of the first rules of receiver restoration is never mess with the tuning string, so the capacitor had to stay in place. I had to fish out and replace caps from underneath via what little dexterity have remaining in my left hand. I love vintage, but vintage digits really suck at that dexterity thing.

The drive card is mounted vertically in front of the heat sinks. I was able to re-cap that without removing. The relay ciruitry is just in from of the drive card and the regulator circuitry in front of that. The tuners are to the right.

I am usually obsessive about the cap replacement count, it's sort of a solder monkey's counting coup. However, I managed to misplace my coup stick, er, slip of paper with the exact total. It was something over 70, I swear.

Re-capped with the controls spritzed this a nice sounding unit. The overall presentation is a bit mellow and would fit very nicely with a digital source. At 55 watts a side a bit of care needs to be taken with speakers if you are wanting to fill a largish room with Led Zeppelin. But, all in all, the NR 815 will eat your Fry's HT black box for breakfast and lunch, and look good doing it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Subwoofer Pas de Deux

A while back Parts Express offered a deal that seemed too good to pass up: the Spherex XBox system with 5 satellites and a subwoofer carcass, minus the amp and remote for $99.00. Plus free shipping! (I see now that the price is $75, a deal!) The Spherex system was well reviewed and the satellites use technology from Mirage. The sub contained a 6 channel amp that apparently was failure prone, so the systems have been a PE close out for a while, sans amp of course.

I sprung for 2 and scattered the satellites among work room, kid's room and friends. But what to do with the subwoofer carcasses with a hole in back?

Apex Jr. came to the rescue.

I purchased the M&K 150 and the Audiofile VRS 1205 amps since they seemed to have nearly the correct dimensions for the cut out. Each is a bargain at $99.95 and nominally rated at 150 watts. These are real amps with real transformers, not digital amps. Here are the finished products:

The Spherex boxes have a downward firing 8" driver with a port. Fit and finish is good and I love the handle on top. The driver is a respectable performer, but the amps probably deserve a bit more than the Spherex carcass can provide. I shouldn't complain since I spent just a bit more than 2 hours assembling the pair. Both amps required a bit more than an inch off the width and just slight shaving off the height of the opening for installation.

Both amps are well made with the M&K having the edge in performance, but the Audiofile having the edge in gadget factor. The first photo above shows the remote sensor installed on the front of the Audiofile. Oh yeah, that is a new hole you will have to cut on the front. The remote works well and allows you to crank the volume for the good parts of Con Air and drop it back to realistic levels for music.

If you already have a home theater receiver you can have a very respectable 5.1 system for under $200, definitely a deal. This is a killer system for the kids' game room or a budget theater system. Break out the jig saw and get some sweat equity in a subwoofer!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Signal Sucks: FM Side Band Hiss

Does your FM station sound like crap these days?

Is the sonic gravel getting you down?

If so, I bet you are listening to the modern sound of side band garbage through a vintage FM tuner.

The FM frequency spectrum is increasingly being crammed with signals that were never envisioned by the designers of medium decades ago. Here in Austin, the classical FM station KMFA has broadcast a benchmark quality signal since its inception, but these days you are wasting our ears trying to listen to it with a vintage tuner. Recently KMFA sold off the edges of its frequency range to another signal, and you can hear it as hiss behind the music.

The FM signal broadcast is not just a single licensed frequency but includes 130 kilohertz of bandwidth above and below the designated frequency. According to KMFA's consultant engineer the FM broadcast system originally used the entire licensed spectrum to minimize distortion, and our vintage tuners reflect that philosophy. They tend to grab the full width available with broad filters. However, the modern broadcast signal now lives in a much narrower portion of the licensed band (15 khz) , and the edges of that band are a business opportunity.

What is that business opportunity? There are a number of possibilities, but in all likelihood the offender is HD radio. I highly recommend this Wikipedia article. Note the FM spectrum images down the page on the right. The second image is of the signal that gives your vintage tuner a hard time. According to the article only 1% of the station's power is devoted to the HD signal. A move is afoot to increase this to 10% in order to improve the quality of the HD signal at the expense of the analog signal. (Shudder.)

So what prompted this little rant? I hadn't listened to the wonderful KGSR in a week or two on my Advent 300 receiver, but tonight the hiss was just depressing. I recently restored this little Henry Kloss/Tom Holman gem using Elna Silmic II caps with a few 1 mfd films and the tuner is sounding great. I guess I need to learn something about FM filters...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Sansui 1000 Receiver

The Sansui 1000 is very different from the Sansui 1000a. Via this site it seems the relatively common 1000a was manufactured from '64 through '72 (!) and uses the formerly rare 7591 output which is now being manufactured by several vendors. The very rare 1000 apparently was manufactured in '63 only and uses the oddball 25E5 (PL36/CV10341) output with the distinctive anode on top.

The Sansui 1000 is to my eye much nicer looking than the 1000a and the 25E5 has the advantage of actually being relatively cheap for an NOS pentode. Here are some photos of a customer unit take at Austin Stereo:

Note the connectors to the tops of the outputs at the top of the second picture. Make sure you label them when removing the tubes. They need to go back to the correct tube! The build quality is top notch, as one can always expect from Sansui. You gotta love those transformers. The 1000 is a very nice sounding receiver with a fine tuner and enough power to drive full sized speakers.

For those interested, here is a close up of the 25E5/PL36/CV10341 output tube.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

In Memoriam: the Automatic Radio OMX-9843 8-Track Receiver

To paraphrase an old joke about motorcyclists sans helmet: what do you call an 8-track receiver? The answer, of course, is: an organ donor.

I recently found a Technics SA 303 receiver in excellent shape except for a broken bass control pot. What to do? I did not have an appropriate vintage pot to repair the unit and I doubted that I could find a new one that would suffice. Luckily, I stumbled onto an early '70s vintage 8-track receiver from a brand I assume is long gone, Automatic Radio, from Melrose, Massachusetts. Today, there is pretty much no one who is interested in such a device. But, the moral of today's blog is: do not judge a receiver by its cover.

The OMX-9843 was an entry level combo receiver marketed by an American-based company, but made in Japan. The $159.95 price sticker was still on the bottom. From its appearance this was not a mainstream, hifi retailer unit. It was probably sold at a local furniture store or a regional chain like Gibson's here in Texas. The case was the typical vinyl over Philippine mahogany (why did they do that??), and inside was essentially two units: an 8 track player on the left and a very minimalist am/fm receiver on the right with lots of small bolts and nuts holding it all together. The 8-track player scavenged power from the receiver via an internal plug in a manner that suggests that something else might fit on the left. I wonder if someday I might stumble on a cassette version of this beastie? The Matsushita amplifier outputs produced a hefty 6 watts a side, low even by the standards of the early '70s.

The point of all this? Back when manufacturers cared even the most entry level of electronic products were well made. For example:

The pots in the photo above were made by Alps. The tiny driver card has 4 small can transistors by Matsushita, the same as the two on the tone control card. Sorry, the cute Matsushita outputs were donated to Austin stereo before this picture was taken. The switches are still crisp and the hardware is very high grade and about half is non-magnetic. This is all high quality stuff, and will see service in other gear from the era.

Who woulda thunk that parts from an Automatic Radio would extend the life span of a Sansui or Technics receiver?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Orion, TeraPeak and the Audiogon Blue Book

I recently was overcome with a desire to actually do a bit of research on the vintage hifi market. Not that I was exactly obsessing, but I was really curious about a few items, curious enough to spring for a few bucks. What was available?

I own a very old ('93) copy of the Orion Blue Book for audio. How I managed to buy that is a story best saved for another day, but it has been moderately useful over the years so I don't regret the pain and anguish. Much. Orion is a staple in the pawn business and anyone who buys and sells audio gear (and musical instruments, etc.) is familiar with the product. While Orion is often completely clueless about an item, it is a good place to start a valuation hunt. Over the years Orion has culled its older entries so it's best to have multiple copies that span the years. Orion is often way off in valuations, always on the low side. I imagine Orion's information sources are limited on thinly traded, more esoteric items.

So, was there anything better than Orion? eBay and Audiogon are the primary sources for audio sales, so what did they have to offer? describes itself thusly: 'The Audiogon is a membership based community of high end audio enthusiasts.' It provides a very popular auction and classified system for audio sales. Membership is free. It also provides a Blue Book valuation service for a yearly fee of $50 that is easy to use and provides some nice touches, such as a graph and transaction counts. It is fairly comprehensive but is not without some holes. I own a Fisher SA 300 tube power amp and they indicate it is worth $190. I will take a dozen at that price, please.

eBay seems to be troubled entity these days. I am strictly a buyer, so it has not been bad from my perspective, but sellers are not happy. eBay has made policy changes that expose low volume sellers to abusive buyers. Again, this discussion is best left to another time. My biggest gripe with eBay has been the limitation of viewing completed auctions to 2 weeks. Viewing completed auctions is useful to me as a buyer, but I would think it would be crucial to a seller. While wandering my eBay home page I noticed the 'Marketing Tools' link and therein lies a tale.

Long ago eBay provided access to a longer history, but they obviously determined that access to historical information was a sellable product. In the marketing tools section of the site I found a link to Market Research, and a Fast Pass service for 2 days access to 90 days of completed auctions for $2.99. When I tried to purchase this service I was 1) routed to create a seller's account and 2) routed to Paypal and 3) routed to And then it got interesting. It turned out that the Fast Pass service did not actually exist.

I can only conclude that eBay killed their Market Research offering and sold it to without doing proper job of connecting someone interested in the service to TeraPeak. First, let me make very clear that TeraPeak is not at fault here. My several frustrated emails to their customer service staff were very promptly and professionally handled. My emails to eBay went into the bit bucket, of course, but that was expected. It turned out that TeraPeak offers (essentially) a two tiered system to access 90 days of eBay history. You can buy 1 month at $24.95 or a year at $197.95. I tried it out for a month. offers a search engine with access to 90 days of eBay auctions. You can pick your eBay source and tweak it with some Addons, but the gist of the service is a nice query generator and aggregator for eBay's recent history.

The combo is a not exactly a Blue Book but it could ultimately be the ideal solution to the valuation issue. Nothing beats actually looking at a transaction since condition, the quality of the presentation, and the transaction form mean so much. TeraPeak does a good job of presenting the information and its searches (which I presume are actually run on eBay's servers) are quick. It's layout takes a bit of getting used to but it is reasonable.

I used the service for a month and was relatively happy with the results. However, I did not renew my subscription. is a competently run site whose primary limitation is eBay imposed: they only have a rolling 90 days of history. Much of what I look for are very thinly traded items, so it is sometimes tough to find what I am looking for in that 90 days. I also determined that the all-or-nothing approach to eBay data was not cost effective for me. I would be happiest to pay for my interest and that alone. I do not need access to 90 days of dinnerware or costume jewelry. I passed this request on the the TeraPeak staff, so maybe someday...

One last issue: TeraPeak is a subscription service and will bill your credit card on a recurring basis. I had assumed that I purchased a single month and was surprised when I was billed for a second month. I was not paying attention, I guess. If you do not want to continue the service it appears the default when you cancel is for next month, not immediately. Hence my cancellation did not exactly work as I had hoped. However, an email to customer service appears to have corrected the situation.

Oh, and while researching this write up I discovered that eBay had scrubbed the links to the Market Research service, so maybe my emails actually reached someone.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Hurrier I go the Behinder I Get

I am hopelessly behind in posting my restoration efforts. I was missing a camera for a few weeks... Waiting in the wings are write ups for the Marantz 2230, the Nikko 815, the Toshiba 330 pre/power pair, and the JVC JR-S200 receiver. Oh, and I forgot: the Marantz 115B tuner, part of a set with the 3600 preamp and the 250 power amp, both awaiting the soldering iron. Oh, and the Advent 300 restoration shoot out awaits. So, consider this next item an apertif: the Realistic Minimus 1 speaker.

Orion says the Minimus 1 was produced from '69 to '73, my college years! While the Minimus 7 is a common item, this pair of Minimus 1's is the only pair I have ever seen. Maybe I don't get out enough. But doing a bit of research on ebay shows that in the last 90 days 270 7's have been auctioned, compared to only a single pair of 1's with blown woofers. That's rare.

Yes, that is real walnut veneer. They are slightly larger than the Minimus 7, well built but with something funky going on in the back:

Note the 3 posts: you can augment the high frequency balance via strapping the middle post. Here is what is going on inside.

This is looking through the woofer hole at the crossover. The 3 posts are visible, although a bit obscured with polyester fuzz. The post at the right, missing the screw, hence the dark center, is actually the leftmost, positive terminal. (Remember, we are flipped!)

There is a 6.8mfd cap on the tweeter. This was my reason for being here, one of the pair was a bit dull sounding, so presumably one (or both) of the caps was aging. Both were replaced with film. And I managed to keep the burns to a minimum in the tight space, thanks for asking.

The crossover is a second order on the tweeter with a wire round resistor taming it a bit. The tweeter coil is actually at the far left in the picture. The woofer filter is a first order (ie. just the coil at the right) but strapping the middle post adds the wire wound resistor at the bottom to dial the woofer back a bit. 'Increased' high frequency is really diminished low frequency. So, back in the day your $60 bought you a nicely finished two way with 5 components in the crossover. In just a few years the trend would be a single cap on the tweeter and zip on the woofer (eg. the EPI 100.)

The Minimus 1's have a solid following on ebay with good reason. Working pairs seem to go for about $75, a bit more than their original cost in the early '70s. They look great, very '60s-ish with the sparkle cloth grill and very well done veneer. They are very musical performers despite limitations at either end of the spectrum. The woofer quality is such that I have wondered if it is scavenged for other projects. Buy 'em if you find them at your local thrift!

Monday, September 15, 2008

John Iverson in the House!

Finally my John Iverson Electron Kinetics Eagle 2C amp is here!

Ever since reading about this amazing maverick genius American and his foray into audio design, I have wanted one of his amps. They are getting hard to find.

There is still good info about this great man and his unexplained disappearance. I will post what I know next time.

Here it is! All the way from Canada, and this man has to win the Right Proper Packing Award!

I have received a lot of gear through UPS and the Mail and it can be heartbreaking to receive a treasured item nonpacked by unconscious idiots.

Sorry, I digress.

This was not the case here. Completely bullet proof, it could have gone round the world a few times and dropped off several conveyor belts and still arrived in pristine shape. Took me 10 minutes to unpack it!

This little 30 pounder puts out 120 wpc @ 8 ohms and 320 wpc @ 2 ohms all day! 160,000 uf capacitance and a hand wound transformer.

As demo, John would cross the speaker leads till sparks and melting wire were everywhere, then hook up to the speakers and voila.... They have a reputation for fantastic bass control and often used in bottom end of bi-amping set ups. The later models were smooth and balanced throughout the frequency range. This is a later model ;-)

After a check out by our resident master at Austin Stereo Repair we'll be trying it out with those bass hungry Infinity Quantums.

Long live John Iverson, may he rest in peace.....

KEFs up and running!

Finally the Kef 104.2's are done!

After getting the beautifully redone woofers back from Wes at Austin Speaker Repair I spent a couple of hours installing everything, hooking up and soldering. The original butyl rubber surrounds were too far gone for refitting/gluing so they were cut back to the cone and new foam surrounds were fitted.

I checked my work as I went but it wasn't till I was all done with the 30 something wires and 50 something bolt/screws that it occurred to me that maybe I should have fired em up before that.....oops...

As luck would have it there was sound when I gingerly turned up the volume! Not a lot of bass to speak of but full spectrum sound.

Long story short, they have been running for 3 days and the sound is still improving. They sound magnificent! The caps and the new tweeters seem to be working out really nice. Even when powered by my Sansui G-8000 I am hearing dynamics and detail on some recordings that are pretty much.. damn... ;-)

I'm a happy camper, cant wait to hear what they will sound like fully broken in with a CJ premier 10 up front. Long live Sir Raymond Cooke! May he rest in peace.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Road Trip to Florida!

Had a chance for a nice road trip last month. Drove my old Subaru out to see my good friend Wes Swenson who lives right outside of Panama City FL.

Wes and I flew Chinooks together in Vietnam in 1969 so we go back a bit. It was great to see him again and hang out for about three days.

He has retired from flying but keeps busy working in his large beautiful studio as a master potter and clay worker.

I drink my morning tea out of his mugs which are as fine as anybody's anywhere. He has his own kiln and is busy working on an awesome chess set, among other things.

Beside general reminiscing and catching up on life we listened to Wes's considerable stereo rig consisting of a modified Philips CD player, a Audio Research SP-9 Mk II tube preamp, an Audio Research D-125 behemoth tube amp sporting 4 6550's per side and a tall set of Vandersteens, 3's I believe. It was great sounds.

While I was out there I picked up a set of KEF 104.2's that were delivered to Wes's house from a nearby eBay gentleman who was selling them for parts. Nice rosewood cabinets. When it was time to go, we loaded up the Kefs, filled the spare tire, said our so longs and I headed the old Subaru home.

The trip went smoothly, about 13 1/2 hours straight through. That 240K mile Sube ran like a Swiss watch. Averaged 31 mpg going about 70mph with the A/C on the whole way, without burning a drop of oil.

Those flat opposed 4 bangers are tough as nails. Made in America too!

I figured I could do the Kef rebuild myself so I took the units apart, removed the X-Overs and replaced the tweeters with some new Peerless DX-25's.

The old Kef tweeters start losing their ferro fluid after 20 years and it hardens. They were both bad.

The crossovers were in pretty good shape so I only replaced about 7 capacitors on each board. Those x-over assemblies weigh about 5 lbs each and are a little tricky to get in and out.

I quickly realized that redoing the woofers properly was past my pay grade, so, off they went to Austin Speaker Repair.

The 104.2's are considered a genuine classic from the late '80's. Highly regarded in many circles as one of the great designs, they were and still are awesome performing speakers for their size. 36"x11"x13" and about 72 lbs each, they reek of quality. Beautiful veneers, solid bracing and those great Kef components. Thank you Sir Raymond!

Some consider them pretty gawky looking as they have a externally mounted metal case holding a D’appolito MHM arrangement that is completely outside the cabinet.

Inside the cabinet are 2 - 8" woofers firing straight up and connected with a stabilizing aluminum rod. They fire through a 4" opening in the front of the cabinet and manage to put out considerable bass. We''ll see.

When it's all done I'll let you know how they sound!