Thursday, December 30, 2010

Black Equipment from the Eighties.

Update: Removing the Marantz and substituting the Carver cube (right from my DAC, volume controlled by the Mac) reveals how bad the Marantz amp is. It sucks the life and ambience and musicality from everything it touches. The eighties were a sad time for a once proud american brand icon. The brand has come back, and makes some insanely expensive new gear that I'd love to even see, but this is the worst amp I've ever had here.

A few pieces of gear from the eighties fell into my posession recently, and since all my other amps are in the shop, I was forced to check out the Marantz IA-2322 integrated amplifier. Once I was at it, I thought it would be interesting to listen with context, and take a few minutes to see how 2 icons from the seventies were faring a decade later.

The Marantz amp is part of a rack system from the late 80s. I also have a dead CD player, a tuner, and a dual cassette deck, which I haven't checked out. The matching Marantz tower speakers (3 way 12 inch sealed systems with 3/8" paticle board cabinets), and turntable (all plastic with masonite bottom) were dropped off at Goodwill before I even brought the rest home.
The amp is just ugly to me, but the construction is ok, the transformer is heavy,and it sounds pretty good. It has none of the charm or warmth of the seventies vintage stuff, but it's not bad at all. I haven't tried the phono section, but the cd input works well, and is noticeably cleaner with the CD DIRECT button engaged, which bypasses the tone and balance controls. I have no specs for this amp, but checking quickly on the 'net suggests that it's rated at 100 watts/channel. If that's true, they are not old school Marantz watts. If they were, I'd estimate it at about 40.

The JBL LX500 speakers depart drastically from the company's superb modernist, function aesthetic. They are poorly designed, graphically and industrially, with a multitude of 80s postmodern aesthetic cliches. James B. Lansing and his engineers would cry.
He wouldn't be uncomfortable with the construction. The speakers have heavy, well built and braced cabinets. The drivers, while they have stamped metal baskets, not cast, were still made in the USA, and have high quality, heavy magnets and are well made. JBL has known it's way around titanium tweeters for a long time. I refoamed the woofers (one of which also had a run in with a cat- ablack on, I bet), and they were as easy as any other JBL driver I've worked with. The midrange drivers have sealed backs, like the great models from the seventies, and the crossover components are good. They weigh 38 pounds each.
The speakers sound pretty good, not overly bright, and are quite well balanced. I would rather listen to a pair of L19s, but I'm lucky, I have a set!

The Marantz IA-2322 and JBL LX500s are orders of magnitude less well designed and built than the great pieces from the seventies, and give none pleasure that comes with owning a beautifully made piece of vintage gear. Soundwise, they're ok (but not exciting), particularly the speakers.

Update: Removing the Marantz and substituting the Carver cube (right from my DAC, volume controlled by the Mac) reveals how bad the Marantz amp is. It sucks the life, ambience and musicality from everything it touches. The eighties were a sad time for a once proud american brand icon. The brand has come back, and makes some insanely expensive new gear that I'd love to even see, but this is the worst amp I've ever had here.

DCM Timewindows new pictures.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

First picture of almost finished DCM Timewindows.

They're starting to look like the high end speakers that they are. The grill socks fit nicely, but tightly. They took a long time to pull on. I made one a bit tighter than the other (I'm not really Martha), and it took a long half hour to get it in place. There are some imperfections in the bond of the wood caps to the speaker enclosure that I'll fix, then do a final trim strip.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

DCM Timewindows.

Update: It took a couple of hours to get the top and bottom caps off (an hour and a quarter for the first one, 45 minutes for the next 3). I've sanded the top caps and will paint the edges of all 4 black in the morning. Today I made 2 'socks', each 38 inches tall (the speakers are 36 inches), with a 30 inch circumfrence (the cabinets are 35.5 inches around) out of black grill cloth (that's 76 inches of hand stitching...I'm the Martha Stwart of vintage audio). I'll have them all together, and post pictures tomorrow.
Here are the before pictures:

I got these just before the holidays, and have been enjoying them. In the late seventies, these made the high end audio community pay attention, with their effortless musicality and imaging. At $800 a pair they became very popular, and broke out of the audiophile world to become a known icon in the audio mainstream. I think their cool name had a lot to do with it. They really are windows into the music.

The front baffles are particle board, and the curved rear sections are sections of Sonotube, the heavy cardboard forms used in concrete building construction. Each cabinet contains 2 Philips dome tweeters and 2 Philips 6 1/2 inch woofers in a transmission line configuration.

The specs are as follows:
Dimensions:36"H x 14 3/4"W x 11 3/4"D
Weight:32 Pounds
Power Requirements:10 Watts Minimum per channel 89 dB/watt at one meter; 200 Watts Maximum
Impedance:5 Ohms minimum/6-8 Ohms nominal
Frequency Range:25Hz to 18 kHz
Dispersion:180 degrees horizontal/60 degrees vertical.

Originally, they were completely surrounded in black open cell foam, which of course has disintegrated. I am going to try to make new 'socks' for them from black grill cloth.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

ADS L520s

Another excellent pair of ADS speakers with the spectacular Braun drivers. These are the epitome of neutrality, clarity and musicality.

JBL 4412 Studio Monitors.

They were made in 1986, so don't exactly belong here, but are evolved from the fantastic 4310s and 4311s from the seventies. I get excited about all vintage JBLs, but the professional speakers really get me going. These rock! I haven't spent enough time with them yet (I don't know if that's even possible), but can say that they sound as good as any JBL I've had here.

Fun Fact: in 1981 66% of all majour american recording studios used JBLs, and 22 out of Billboard's top 25 albums were recorded and mixed using JBL's monitors.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I try things, I make mistakes, I learn.

My attempt to soup up a pair of JBL L19s was a mistake. They look and sound amazing down to about 100 hz. The 2118J woofers that I put into the L19 cabinets are much heavier than the stock 116As, and I assumed they would sound better. I said that they were great. Comparing them side by side to other JBLs I had at the time revealed a lack of deep bass response. Frank at the Speaker Shop explained why. The 2118Js were made (and I removed them from) a set of 4612 speakers, professional PA speakers, rated down to 70 hz. As magnificent as they are, they have much shorter voice coils than the 116As, and do not have a long enough excursion to go low. What I ended up with was a beautiful, punchy sound down to the mid-bass frequencies, but an ultimately unsatisfying speaker system. I am about to take delivery of a set of the correct 116A woofers, and know that I will end up with a better sounding system (I've had L19s before). I haven't heard a pair of JBLs in weeks, and am looking forward to hearing the sound I love so much.

UPDATE: They sound great! I love JBL.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Out of town.

I should have let you know before I left, but I am out of town and not posting 'til the weekend.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What a beautiful machine!

Happy Saturday.

Things are sounding beautiful at Seventies Stereo World Headquarters.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A fantastic little visitor.

Vladimir has moved in the last few days (just a few doors down), and doesn't have his work bench up and running. I have a few pieces that he's working on, that will be delayed. Thnk you, Phil for the loan of the Adcom GTP-400 preamp/tuner and especially this Carver M-400 200 watt/channel Magnetic Field Amplifier.

Altec Lansing Model Fives

Altec, like JBL, designed, engineered and built 'conventional' drivers to the highest standards, getting excellent performance from proven technologies. The two 4" cone tweeters in each cabinet are excellent examples.They sound as good as much more theoretically sophisticated tweeters. The woofers are also beautifully made. They are built on a 12 inch basket, but use a 10 inch surround, with an integral metal ring that performs the same function as the famous Advent masonite ring. These speakers sound warm and authoritative and are a pleasure to listen to.