Saturday, May 28, 2011

Marnie Stern

I didn't write this, Sasha Frere Jones, the brilliant pop music critic at The New Yorker, did.

A unique artist is gone.

A pioneer of rap, godfather to Public Enemy and countless others. Gil Scott-Heron combined articulate, witty, angry political commentary with unrelenting sweet soufulness and awesome musicianship. Check out Johanessburg (recorded 2 years before the Soweto riots) and B Movie for a taste of a voice that will be sorely missed.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pioneer SA-7500II Integrated Amplifier.

I just love the look and sound of this heavy little amp. It's rated at a conservative 45 watts/channel, has a great sounding phono section, and is driving my Electrovoice Sentry 100A studio monitors with ease and authority. It was filthy when I got it it, but is gleaming now. Pioneer really had it all together in their 'silver period'.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Harman Kardon 930 photos.

The light is pretty harsh today, and I don't think that these pictures do this receiver justice. I'll take some others on a cloudy day, but I wanted to get something posted asap. It is beautiful, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Big Tuesday Update.

I hope you had a great weekend. In Canada it was the first long weekend of the summer. I drove to Bala, Ontario on Sunday night to hear Blue Rodeo play at the historic Kee To Bala, a wooden dancehall on Bala Bay, built in 1949. It holds about 770 people, and both the Saturday and Sunday shows were completely sold out. I was on the main floor abot 20 feet from the stage. The band rocked! They're great songwriters and excellent musicians, and gave a typically generous show, no holding back, no arrogance, just great music. If you're in Toronto on August 20th, you shouldn't miss their annual gig at the Molson Amphiteatre.

The ESS AMT-3 Rock Monitors left yesterday, and will be living in Illinois. The lucky new owner already owns 2 pair of ESS speakers, but was thrilled to get a pair of the only 3 way speakers the company ever made. I will miss them, but am blessed in 2 ways: I have other great speakers to listen to (currently the wonderful Rega 2s), and I honestly love music more than equipment. I'm not saying that the Regas have a tweeter that touches the Heil AMT, or are as deep and visceral in the bass, but they honour the music.

Right now, the Regas are being driven by a Harman Kardon 930. What a spectacular receiver! I'll have pictures and lots to say tomorrow. Right now, I can tell you that it's a twin powered, 45 watt/channel beauty with extraordinary warmth and clarity, and awesome bass control, detail and tightness.

Bob Dylan turned 70 today. Forever young.

Congratulations to the Vancouver Canucks, who beat the San Jose Sharks tonight in double overtime to win the NHL Westen Conference and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. This is relevant, because a good vintage system makes sports on tv sound better too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

While I'm on about Mission:

Mission will always be notorious to me for creating possibly the ugliest pre/power amp combination ever. What were they thinking?

Speakers I wish I owned: Second in an occasionally appearing series.

Ok, they're decades too new for this blog, but Mission have been one of my favorite speaker manufacturers since the seventies, and I couldn't pass up the chance to hear a pair from 2001. The bass drivers in these speakers were notorious for failing, and these were no exception. Their owner picked them up on the side of the road, obviously discarded when the woofers died. He found replacement bass drivers, of an improved (by Mission) design, and I exchanged them for him this morning. I was impressed by every aspect of the way these speakers are put together, and was anxious to hear them. I wasn't disappointed. They have awesome clarity and detail, without picking apart the music unnaturally like some modern 'audiophile' speakers I've heard (Totem Mites come to mind...I would choose a pair of Dynaco A-25s over them any day). This review details the innovative design and construction of the 780s, and I agree with the author's conclusion. Mission rocks!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Love The One(s) You're With.

The title of a fantastic Steven Stills song, and a sensible strategy for those with an abundance of vintage equipment. I have big power amps. I have speakers that weigh more than most adults, but I haven't disconnected the Sansui AU-4400 since it arrived. It drives the massive ESS AMT3 Rock Monitors, but I've been stuck on the Rega 2s all week. I could live happily with this system for a long time.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Black Mountain.

This is a band you should check out. Imagine Led Zeppelin's crunch with Chrissie Hynde as a second vocalist. I bet that got your attention.

Sansui AU-4400 integrated amplifier.

This is, apparently, a rare one, made in 1976, with an ethereally beautiful silver face and engraved white markings. Conservatively rated (like all Sansui gear) at 20 watts/channel, this is another gem. It makes music sound fantastic. I've been using the PSB Alphas and the Rega 2s, and am loving the sound.

PSB Alpha.

I brought home a pair of PSB Alpha speakers in rough shape yesterday. The Alpha has long been PSB's entry level speaker with useful bass response, and an updated version is still part of the company's product line. Stereophile has reviewed them more than once since the original Alpha was introduced in 1992. They use a 3/4 inch dome tweeter and a 5 1/4 inch woofer in a rear ported cabinet.

This pair is original, and the plain appearance suggests that the cost of this speakers is in quality sound, not cosmetics. The grills are not removeable (to save the cost of grill frames and attachment hardware). Grill fabric is stretched right over the front baffle of the speaker, which is then glued to the front of the cabinets. The rear baffle is screwed in place.

The grill cloth on this pair had been tortured by a cat, the front baffles were loose, the tweeters were unglued from the baffles (just held in place by the grill fabric), and one speaker had been home to mice, and was full of mouse shit.

I disinfected the mouse house, redid the grill fabric, glued the tweeters back in place, recast one broken back corner, glued the front baffles in place as they had been, then reinforced all the corners with tons of hot glue. The enclosures are more solid than when they were new, and these Alphas now look pretty good. They look boring, but sound anything but.

The sound of the Alphas is natural and neutral. They do lots right and very little wrong. PSB speakers have been designed by musician Paul Barton since he founded the company in 1972. He has made (and continues to make) extensive use of the anechoic chamber at the National Research Council in Ottawa. The Alpha is as uncompromising a design as can be made at it's price, and is a canadian classic.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Beach Boys Holland.

If you know the Beach Boys only from their Surfin' USA/Endless Summer hits (too numerous to mention), this will surprise you.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Sorry for the lack of textual content over the weekend. I was quietly stewing about my Sansui AU-9900, my go to amp of choice that keeps being a no go. Everything was fine, until something or someone (ok, me) caused the connectors on the back of the EV Sentry 100As to loosen, possibly causing a positive and negative wire to touch, causing the green light on the front to turn red, and possibly (probably) blowing a channel. I'm embarassed to take it to the shop again. If I didn't still have the Nakamichi PA-5 power amp, it would be very quiet here!

I traded the Sansui G-6700 for a pair of DCM Timeframe TF700 speakers. The person I got them from had initially been reluctant to let them go because he was enjoying them so much, but had so many speakers that he'd stopped listening to them. Before taking them out of circulation, he had the speaker connectors changed, but didn't listen to them after the change.

So I take them home, excitedly plug them in, and am stunned by how bad they sound...gutless, tinny and terribly inefficient. These couldn't possibly be right, I thought. To make a long story shorter, the crossovers had been incorrectly reconnected after the connectors were replaced. What I'd heard was the tweeter signal played through the woofer and tweeter, and no output from the midrange. The midrange driver plays when connected where the tweeter should be, so I know there's a continuity problem in the midrange of that crossover. The speaker sounds better already, even without the midrange working. I haven't investigated the 2nd speaker yet, but the problem sounds the same, so I should be able to just remove the crossover and change the connectors around...hoping that the continuity problem is just a bad connection or solder on the first board only. I've been lazy about checking it out...I prefer no news to more bad news right now.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Update.

Busy, busy week. I'm sorry I haven't posted. I'm starting to paint the World headquarters this weekend, and may not post a lot (and most of what I have to tell you is bad news that I'm not looking forward to discussing), so here's a picture of what I've been listening to.