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!

Road Trip Lexington: Pops Resale and Consignment

For the last 14 years my sole trips for pleasure have been to Lexington, KY, to visit my family. For many years I frequented the flea markets around town, as well as those in Georgetown, Cincinnati, and southern Indiana, but these flea markets ebbed as ebay flowed. The Gibson guitar amps, the McCoy pottery and the Griswold fry pans were being peddled to the world along with those Heathkit tube amps I lusted after, and my Sunday afternoons were not the same. The hifi gear that was so plentiful in the early '90s was gone. How was I ever going to maintain my habit!??

About 10 years ago I visited a Goodwill in the Meadowthorpe Plaza on Leestown Rd. and stumbled into a long and narrow space nearby: Pops Resale and Consignment. At the time it was just two years old and the space was not yet full. But it had a healthy stock of vinyl and gear at very reasonable prices. The lanky proprietor, presumed to be Pops, was friendly and knowledgeable, and willing to accommodate the stray visitor from Austin. I was hooked. Over the years I have always made time for a visit or two, and I usually manage to bring my 90 year old Dad to make sure he gets a bit of exercise.

Pops Resale is truly a mom and pop operation. Pops is owned by Dan Shorr and his wife Sharon, and they are in their 12th year of business. From their web site it seems that Pops was not really Dan's nickname, but it was an inevitable outcome of the business. The origin of Pops is the 'Previously Owned Products' they intended to sell instead of mass market, landfill-destined, contemporary dreck. Vinyl is still the bread and butter of the business, and vintage hifi gear is prominently featured, but the back has been opened up and now contains an extensive collection of vintage clothing and furniture.

In the early days Dan tried to host live music with limited success, but now he books Saturday afternoon shows over two months into the future. Here is the band setting up:

I am a big fan of '70s silver faced receivers. Many years ago I purchased a non functional Pioneer SX 1250 and had Pops ship it to Austin. No problem, Pops can accomodate. Some of Pops' gear is sold on consignment, most is his. Sometimes items are sold as-is in non-working (or semi-working!) condition for those of us who are game for some sweat equity. Items are always clearly described and prices are very reasonable. He has a steady supply of turntables for those who are vinyl impaired. Turntables are hard for me to get back to Austin, and I have thought about it on occasion... but I have been strong. Over the years my purchases have included an Akai M-8 tube type tape deck and a very lovely Technics SA 8100X quad receiver, both of which are in the queue to get restored and written up on this site. Here two customers are assisted by the 3 resident Drs. of Gearology:

To very briefly hop on the soap box: the quality of vintage gear is very hard to match in modern components at a corresponding price point. The build quality is just superb in '70s Sansui, Yamaha, Marantz, Pioneer and a host of other manufacturers. However, capacitors age and pots and switches get dirty. Do your ears a favor. Buy vintage gear from Pops and the other merchants around the country who protect these marvels of industrial art from the landfill. And if your vintage gear sounds a bit muzzy, support your local tech and get it restored. Your grandkids will thank you!

This year Dad told Caitlin behind the counter: 'You have everything I don't need.' That is correct, Dad, Pops Resale specializes in items that I want. Here's Caitlin at the check out:

Pops Resale and Consignment is located on 1423-B Leestown Rd. about 1/2 mile east (towards the center of town) from New Circle Rd. Give Pops a call at 859-254-7677. If you make it to Lexington and you are a fan of vintage records, gear, clothing or collectibles you just can't afford to miss it. It's a treat.