Sunday, November 30, 2008


The Pioneer HPM-60s, and Marantz 2230 left yesterday and will be missed. On final listen (and I returned to them many times in the months I had them) I still feel that they are very good speakers, worthy of comparison to JBL L36s.

The Marantz 2226 is in a wood sleeve now and looks amazing! It looks (and sounds) really good with the new JBLs. Together they would make an awesome holiday gift for the vintage fan you (really) love

My cabinet refinishing skills are improving, and the Merak M4s and JBL L88 Plus 12s are smooth like glass. I will make the Rectilinear XIs smoother too.

Coming Attractions

Two pairs of speakers will be arriving shortly, and I'm excited to hear both. I haven't mentioned the Altec Ones in a while, but really like them. They do a lot well in a unassuming, very musical way. They are the only sealed (acoustic suspension) system in Altec's line. I will (hopefully tomorrow) have a pair of Altec Threes, with the same tweeter but with a 10 inch woofer in a ported enclosure. I expect them to sound richer and even more musical.
The other pair is also a 10 inch 2 way system, the L620 from ADS (Analogue and Digital Systems, USA), american purveyor of Braun speaker designs and drivers. I've known their speakers by reputation (especially the L810 and awesome L910) and design. I'm really looking forward to hearing them and will post about them as soon as I can.

Awesome little speakers.

These Canton GL 260s are stunning! Almost twice the size of the famous Radio Shack realistic Minimus 7s, they are an order of magnitude better. They image beautifully, are neutral and uncoloured sounding, and have astonishing bass for their size. The cabinets are epoxy coated metal with perforated metal grills and are heavy for their size and very solid. They are in the Bauhaus style of modernism popularized in Braun's industrial designs, and are of at least as high quality. I bought a pair of Wharfedale Diamond VIs this morning, another small 2 way speaker, but more modern (metal dome tweeter, weird textured plastic woofer). I expected to offer both for your consideration, but the Cantons bury them!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A beautiful set from Yamaha

Yamaha's receivers from the seventies are prized by many. Visually, they are modernist minamalist compared to Marantz and sonically they are considered less rich (or coloured, depending on where your tastes fall).
Here is a beautiful 55 watt/channel integrated amp and matching tuner in almost perfect condition that sounds great. It's got power for the JBLs and big Merak M4s and really controls the Meraks' bass nicely.
Please e-mail me to arrange a listen.

Live Blues tonight at Toronto's Home of The Blues!

From Grossman's web site:
Grossman's Tavern - Toronto's Home of the Blues
This tavern was originally open in 1948 by the Grossman's family, it was sold in 1975 to the Louie family, and since has been lovingly maintained and nurtured (except the kitchen: I wouldn't order dinner!).
A great number of intriguing patrons from every imaginable walk of life has come and gone through these doors.
Grossman's has become a legend in its own right, and has since beomce known as "Toronto's Home of the Blues"
Some of our Alumni include: The Downchild Blues Band, Kid Bastien & the Happy Pals, Milton Acorn, Robert Priest, Rebecca Jenkins, Jeff Healey Band, Allannah Myles, Amanda Marshall, Burton Cummings, Philip Sayce, and scores of others...

Tonight, starting at ten, playing 3 sets (the last one ending at 2) BLUESDRIVER, a band full of talent chops and experience (bassist Brad Campbell plays on Janice Joplin's Pearl album). Singer Frieda Nagel fronts the 4 piece band and must be heard.

If you've been thinking of taking a night away from audio for some reality, this is a fine night. I'd love to meet any readers who make it. I'll be near the front bobbing my head and smiling. I don't see enough live music, and when I get off my ass and do, I'm happy.

379 Spadina Ave.
Toronto, ON M5T 2G3
Tel: (416) 977-7000

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Great Title

These are very good.

I wrote this a while ago, but have since spent hours with the HPM-60s. They are still to me an excellent, lower priced, MUCH more efficient (92.5 db/watt vs 76!) alternative to my beloved JBL L36s.

I am excited to offer these fantastic speakers. Designed by Bart Locanthi, the former Vice President of Engineering at JBL, the HPM-100 was seen (by him) as an update of the classic JBL L100. The HPM-60 uses a 10 inch woofer instead of the HPM-100s twelve, but otherwise contains the same driver compliment.
This Wikipedia entry describes the technology and craftsmanship that created these excellent speakers.
This pair is very good! The woofers have been expertly refoamed, the dead supertweeters replaced with excellent ones. The HPM-60 model was only available in fake walnut vinyl. This pair has been refinished in real oiled walnut veneer! They look as good as they sound!
Local pickup only. Thanks for looking.
Email me!

Desert Island album #1 (in a series)

but only the first! And if I could really only take one, this wouldn't be it. But classics are classics for a reason. If you don't listen to jazz, but want to own one brilliant album to impress jazz lovers, this could easily be it.


As hard and rocking as the blues can get. The brilliant comeback, produced and played on by Johnny Winter. This is just incredible!
The JBLs are kicking, my neighbors would hate me if it was later!
I'm grateful to have found this album again (in good shape!) at Sonic Boom's recent (to me) and fantastic downstairs vinyl store. Never released on CD, Leroy recorded it in Toronto with (mostly) Bruce Cockburn's touring band at the time (1980), for True North Records, a national cultural treasure. His cover of Let's Get It On is amazing! I was fortunate to see him perform with the group at the El Mocambo when it was released.

L88 Plus 12 = L100!

UPDATE: They are amazing! i've been using them for a few hours now, and they have an authority that's wonderful: true monitors, as good as I'd hoped.

I'm listening to them as I write (I've heard them for about 40 minutes). They are fantastic! This model was sold as a 2 way with the same tweeter and famous 12 inch white coned woofer as the L100 and 4311 studio monitor. An after market kit (explained here in the 1973 JBL catalogue) makes it an L100! The pair I got this morning were wrapped in vinyl. I just sanded down the walnut and they are gorgeous! The grill system is the same as the L100, and the walnut frames are in great shape, so I'll be able to install new cloth easily.

As my first JBLs, the L26s made me thirst for the 3 way L36s that I love so much, so the 36s made me hungry to experience the L100s, with their bigger woofers (so did my short time with the Pioneer HPM 100s, now kicking beautifully at Kevin's place). Someone selling a pair on ebay recently called them "The King of The Seventies" and I get it. I'm going to post a few photos and enjoy these for a bit. Btw, the woofers aren't stained...those are marks from an excess of the compound the white woofers are doped with to give them their necessary rigidity.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Catching Up & Looking Ahead

I think the JBL L36s are leaving today. This pair are as great as the first, and I've been really enjoying them. I'm sure they're not my last (a pair in need of foaming went for only $60 in Hamilton last week! - I couldn't make it out there.)The new black grill cloth looks really good (I don't know many people, retro hip or not, who would choose that blue. The binding posts are new. They allow easy connection of better cables than were conceived of when the speakers were manufactured. I now have a small bag of vintage JBL speaker connectors, both the twist lock (bad) and push-in (way worse) type.
The L36s have been a constant for me for a while now. So have the Pioneer HPM-60s. I have argued that Bart Locanthi, when at Pioneer revisited some of JBLs (and his- like the L100) classic seventies designs using newer technologies (carbon composite driver cones, the HPM supertweeter). The HPM-60 is exactly the same size and internal volume as the L36. It makes sense to me that Mr. Locanthi would have revisited the efficiency of the design, and here is where I think the Pioneers are a great opportunity (and value). The L36s produce 76 db at I meter with 1 watt, the HPM-60s produce 92.5db with the same watt! Where I've most enjoyed the JBLs with amps like the Marantz 1150 and 1180 DC, the Pioneers can make a 30 watt receiver sound like that kind of powerhouse. Please e-mail me to hear them.
I'm excited as I write this because I expect to have a new JBL project to hear and restore later this morning. I'll post as soon as they're in my hands.
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

2226: The fairest of Them All?

I've loved and enjoyed every Marantz receiver that I've had. Each (even the same model number) looks a little bit different after 30 years or more. The 2226 listed here on the Vintage Marantz Collector's site, was made at the end of the golden age of the company, and to me is a combination of the two bezel design strategies that came before: the more silvery look of the 2230, combined with an articulated section that captures the tuner and filter controls. In my opinion the two textures of aluminum, the orange dots on the tuning dial, and the lightly faceted knobs (as on the DC integrated amps of the same vintage) all combine to make this rare piece the most sparkling Marantz receiver I've seen yet. None of this would matter if it didn't sound beautiful, and it does!
e-mail me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

As good As It Gets.


I'm picking up the bulbs for the 2226 tomorrow, it should light up tomorrow night.

I replaced the mismatched connectors on the latest JBL L36s with good 5 way binding posts today, redid the faded, mismatched grills in new black cloth. They look beautiful (as good as they sound). I will try to give them a light sand and oil tomorrow, but the weather doesn't look like it's going to cooperate. I'm going to have to set myself up in the garage soon, until spring.

I have a beautiful Yamaha integrated amp and tuner set, that I cleaned today (I listened to the amp dirty last week and it sounded great). The amp delivers 55 real watts/channel, has a beautiful silver face and cool analogue meters with that clean Yamaha white light and modernist design sensibility. The tuner is musical and cool, with matching meters. I got them missing their feet, and will take care of that tomorrow.

People have been asking to see pictures of the Merak M4s, and I'll try to take and post some tomorrow. They sound great, especially with the big Marantz 1150.

Speaking of Marantz, I was never too excited about wood sleeves. Especially with the black enamel metal cased integrated amps, I thought they were perfect (the woodgrain metal receiver cases I have mixed feelings about, and the textured black finish of the 2226 leaves me a bit cold, so it may end up in a wood sleeve...the texture is too contemporary). However, the 1150 looks very authoritative in it's massive wood enclosure and the grain and colour is gorgeous!

e-mail me!

I love his playing!

Who do you love to listen to?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Four Cool Marantz Pieces

Pictures to follow soon (sooner if it would stop raining). I have a beautiful 2230 receiver (30 watts/channel) in an original wood case, looking great. Also, an 1150 integrated amp (75 watts/channel) in it's original wood case. Both are in very good condition, and have been recently checked over by good technicians. The 1150 has the power to open up the JBLs and they are a beautiful combination.
I also have a (apparently rare) 2226 receiver (26 watts/channel), which I've never seen before. I've cleaned it, and for the first time (and I know to many of you It's no big deal), I'm going to replace the lights myself. Fortunately the pointer light is good. The gyro-tuning needs some work too. I hooked it up and the auxiliary and phono inputs sound fantastic.
I have a 1070 integrated amp (35 watts/channel) in a factory woodgrain vinyl sleeve (very handsome!) as well.
If you haven't heard a well maintained Marantz amplifier or receiver, you should. The hype is warranted, but sometimes the prices are over the top. I am looking far and wide to find good pieces at fair prices.
e-mail me!

This should be an interesting day.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Merak M4 Update

I rebuilt all 4 passive radiators, and hooked them up. Wow! I loved the M3s, but the bigger cabinets, bigger woofer and extra passive radiators (the ones on the front are tuned with weights on the inside) all contribute to a bigger, more tactile soundfield. All the strengths are apparent, but in abundance! I hoped to sand and oil the cabinets today, but the porch I use for working (and as my photo background) is being rebuilt today, so that won't happen. Probably by tomorrow.
Please contact me to arrange to hear these babies!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Glorious Cheese

I watched this tonight for the first time since I saw it in a first run theatre in 1974. It's the most kitsch fun I've had in a long time.

I Have Another Pair of JBL L36s

They sound just as beautiful as the last pair, that left for good (to a guy that loves them) last night. The cabinets will be even prettier when I'm finished with them. My head is spinning, but there they were!


I've only heard this at low bit rates, but it sure doesn't sound like it's been 30 years since Lady Marmalade. They sound amazing! I agree with the reviewer in NOW who says that the Wyclef Jean produced track sounds out of place, a record company A&R department directive, but everything else is pretty cool. It's fantastic that it's on Verve too.

A new pair of big Meraks just arrived!

These are bigger than the last ones. They have 10 inch Seas woofers (as opposed to 8), the same excellent Seas tweeters, and 2 (not 1) passive radiators on each, one in front one on the back. The passives all need to be rebuilt. The woofers surrounds are good. The cabinets need some love, but will be even more beautiful than the last pair. I can't wait to here them!

Stock is depleting.

It's been a pleasure meeting many of you recently. I'm glad some of you have made the trip, listened, taught me stuff and took home some speakers that will give pleasure for as long time. Yesterday I said goodbye to The Energy ESM3s, Infinity Reference Fours, and JBL L36s (again!). I am working on a couple of interesting trades that will bring cool new treasures, and am looking forward to poking through a garage with an antiques dealer today or tomorrow for more. I will keep you informed.
Please remember that I have many fantastic vintage receivers and amplifiers available that will make your speakers sing! These include beautiful pieces from Harman/Kardan, Sansui, Superscope (we know it's really Marantz), Kenwood, Marantz, Yamaha & Sony, at great prices.
e-mail me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My (brief) Vinyl History

I should, but don't remember the first LP I bought. My first turntable was the BSR changer on the top of my Sony all in one turntable/receiver/cassette deck (what was I thinking? It looked cool). My first real one was a Connoisseur BD/2A, a British table, with a 10 inch platter that left the outside 2 inches of the LP unsupported (what was I thinking? It looked cool). The belt ran in a groove on the outside of the platter. I used a Grado cartridge (I don't remember the model, but the Absolute Sound called it a bargain).
My last turntable was a Rega 3 with a Mission tonearm and a succession of moving coil cartridges (Adcom high output, a couple of Ortofons). I enjoyed it, but over time couldn't resist the urge to tweek (different platter mats, better record cleaners etc.). I reached a point where I was listening to the sound, not the music (didn't this sound more transparent last time? is my stylus clean enough? is it harsh? metallic? fatiguing?). When CDs arrived I was only too happy to sell the Rega (to a friend who still enjoys it) and just insert a disc and press play.
Eighteen years later, vinyl sounds to me like the beautiful, wilder, untamed spirit of music.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Down the Rabbit Hole.

I'll have much more to say soon, but today I am playing vinyl in my home on my system for the first time since 1990! I'm using a modest Dual 604 direct drive turntable with a very modest Shure cartridge for now, but WOW, it's so much different than digital sources in so many ways (observational understatement!). My head is spinning, my ears are tickled and this audio obsession just got more complicated!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The first person who read about the HPM-100s came and took them away.

I was expecting them to generate a lot of interest, because 2 pairs in Barrie (in initially better visual shape than these) sold for $300 each pair last week. I was looking forward to spending some time with them, as I really like the HPM-60s (and thought enough of them to refinish them in real walnut veneer). Also,I'd brought home a pair of HPM-40s 2 weeks ago, and when someone came to my office/home/listening space/junkyard looking for a pair of inexpensive speakers that were good at a lot, after I'd spent 10 minutes checking them out, they were perfect for him and he bought them (they sounded very nice, a bit like JBL L26s).

So when the guy who bought the JBL L36s that I missed so much called less than 2 hours after I posted here about the arrival of (finally!) my pair of HPM-100s, and offered to trade for the JBLs straight up what was I to do? I wanted to really hear the 100s for a bit. They were the sane person's top of the line , and I haven't had a 12 inch woofer speaker in here in a long time (I had some insane VIVID obelisks for a while with a ten and a twelve in each, but they sounded better out on the porch than in my little room!), and not a good one. Anyone who considers the 58 pound 100s bookshelf speakers, as Pioneer says they are, has bigger shelves than I've ever seen!

I woke up early yesterday morning took the 100s, which I stayed up late enjoying the night before, out on the porch, sanded them, oiled them, and traded straight up for my L36s. The Pioneers didn't need any driver work (those pleated, oiled cloth surrounds are terrific!). I got my best taste yet of how cool an experience audio could be for the average consumer in the seventies (I drove them mostly using the Marantz 1070 preamp section feeding the 130 watt/channel Carver Magnetic Field Receiver power amp section). They are magically authoritative on classic rock & small group jazz. The guy who got them knows a capacitor modification for the crossover that he knows will make them sound even sweeter (and has the skill to do it). They have made me even more anxious to hear a set of JBL 4311s &/or L100s (which many consider the HPM-100 to be an update of, both designed by Bart Locanthi
I'm sorry for myself, and anyone who was going to contact me and come over and here them, that they weren't here longer.
e-mail me.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

As promised: PIONEER HPM-100s!

I just lugged them up the stairs. They weigh 58 pounds each! They're connected to the Marantz 1070 right now, and my initial impression is very good. They're clearly related to the HPM-60s that I have and love, with tighter, much deeper bass (I'm listening to reggae) and a bigger, more immersive soundfield. This pair needs some love. I will refinish the very stained and worn real wood cabinets, and replace the cat scratch posts that used to be speaker grills. I will have pictures for you by Saturday, but these make me want to take the day off and crank the tunes!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Talking about great guitar players is highly subjective, and I listen to and love the music of many. Stevie Ray Vaughn, from the moment I heard his solo on Davis Bowie's China Girl, has been the one I always come back to. He is soulful, delicate, ferocious and beautiful, sometimes all in a few notes. His band Double Trouble are unflashy and right in the pocket, loose and tight. The best way, in my opinion to get a taste of SRV is the fantastic Slow Blues album (featuring a cheesy, cheap looking cover). My favourite entire album is Couldn't Stand The Weather, and it includes arguably Mr. Vaughn's finest recorded performance, Tin Pan Alley. If you like the blues at all, check him out!

Speaker Refoaming

I refoamed my first speakers last December, a pair of JBL Control 1s that I planned to buy but was given because they looked to be in dire shape. I found these instructions online, rolled up my sleeves, and a couple of hours later was listening to beautiful music again. I was hooked! I have restored at least 15 pairs since then, and many people have heard and bought them. A refoamed speaker should give 15 years (give or take depending on the environment) of great service. I can't tell you why some manufacturers used foam surrounds and some used other stuff (oiled cloth, rubber). It's not just an economic decision, but an engineering and acoustic one as well.

Though I've been asked many times, I had never refoamed someone else's speakers until last Thursday. I am not an authorized (or formally qualified) speaker technician, and though I've had a 100% success rate (so far), I can't guarantee that will never change. We'd all feel terrible if I ruined your speakers! Anyway, last week George asked if I'd try refoaming a pair of 15 inch Cerwin Vega woofers. I've never done a speaker bigger than 10 inches, and was excited to try. After removing the heavy cast frame monsters from the cabinets and pushing and prodding them to get the feel for their motion, I was confident that I could do it (I've done the same woofer in the 10 inch version), and told George. He left for a couple of hours. The woofers are bigger than a car steering wheel! They require much heavier foam and way more rubber resin adhesive than smaller speakers, but turned out beautifully. George is thrilled, and the speakers are pounding in his jam room.

I don't have the capacity (temporally or spatially) to refoam many more speakers than my own, but if you have an interesting pair that you want to bring back to life please contact me.

Image by Sound Dynamics Reference Two

I have seen a pair of these advertised on Craigslist and Kijiji about twice a week for months now and was intrigued. Many fine (if not always high end) speakers have come from this factory. The Energy 22 was a revelation to me when I first heard it in 1979 (and impulsively sold my Polk monitor 7s to buy them). The big Sound Dynamics rock monitors are famous for their bass and ability to play clean and really loud. The most well known versions had a silvery aluminum horn and bright yellow dome centre, and I'm told those tweeters are very desirable on eBAY.
Anyways, the Reference Twos are very well built with extensive internal bracing (including behind the woofer), and heavy for their size. The cabinet volume is very close to the Mission 770, the proportions are tall and elegant, and they will sound best on low stands (harder and harder to find- I sold my last pair against my better judgement with the JBL L36s). They are very neutral, image well and have surprising authority in the bass. They sound beautiful with the 25 watt per channel Sherwood S-7100, and open up nicely with more power. Classic british 2 way strengths, with a little more oomph for when you want to get the Led out!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rectilinear Research XI

I got a pair of Rectilinear Research XIs on the weekend, and they are making me very happy, using with a Sherwood S-7100 receiver that also arrived recently. I'll tell you a lot more about the Sherwood soon. The speakers are beautiful! Each has 10 inch, deep blue rubber surround (heavy) woofer, and a funky (4 inch frame) cone tweeter in a stunning wood veneer ported cabinet (with very cool molded plastic grills!).
This manufacturer is under many people's vintage radar now (the ad is from 1974, my speakers were made in 1971), but was a hotbed of talent (and probably a few egos!) in the seventies. This Wikipedia entry is very informative.

These speakers sound very nice, comparable to KLH & Advent tonally BUT with a much more kicking bass, due to the ported design (done correctly). I'll go listen some more and may have more to say, but these speakers rock sweetly!
e-mail me to arrange an audition.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Beautiful Systems!

I hope to write a bit more later about why these systems work well together. The $475 system costs less than many BOSE ipod dock systems. Plug an ipod playing mp3s sampled at 320 kbps into the Marantz 1070 auxiliary input, feed the output to the Pioneer HPM-60s, and it's not even close to a fair contest. This package buries the BOSE. In fact, so will the $240 system!
e-mail me.
I forgot to shoot the Superscope R1240 receiver, but it is great with the Bostons, Altecs, and Energy ESMs.
I also have a sweet, silver 70 watt per channel Yamaha integrated amp (with moving coil preamp for those who can use it!) that I'll tell you about that kicks with the Pioneers.

The Sony is very musical, and is up to the challenge of a more revealing, more contemporary speaker. If you like Missions, you'll love the Energy ESM3s.

There isn't much to say about 1970s Marantz amplifiers that hasn't been said. The 1070 has all that great stuff, and drives the Boston A60s easily. The speakers, when placed properly (on the floor, away from other room boundries) has a very comfortable, transparent (an overused adjective in the audio world, but appropriate here) sound, and as I said when I got them, get out of the music's way.

I love the Harman /Kardan HK-340. It is very clean and quite powerful for it's size. If Mies van der Rohe had designed audio equipment, I think it would have looked like this: clean with beautiful detailing, and honest use of materials (no fake woodgrain here!). The Altec Ones, while not as sexy as JBLs, are excellent. They are well balanced and do everything well. They don't deliver the deepest bass, but also don't insult with cabinet resonance pretending to be bass. They are beautifully made, and the oak veneer is gorgeous.

The Altecs can sound even better with double the power, and the Kenwood KR-5600 delivers that in spades.

It has surprised me that the Pioneer HPM-60s are still living at my place. I see them as alternative JBL L36s at a much lower price. Ignore them at your peril. Designed by the legendary Bart Locanthi (creator of the L100) when he was vice president of product development at Pioneer, they are serious, high quality full range speakers. I can't think of any other Pioneer speakers available in North America (in contrast to what stayed in Japan and was never exported) I'd want. I had a pair of HPM-40s in house for about 30 minutes a couple of weeks ago, and they were great too. I hope to present the HPM-100 to you soon.
The Marantz 1070 or Yamaha A-500, or Kenwood KR-5600 all work well with them.