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Toob Addiction (An Audio Odyssey For Music Fanatics)

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  • Started 2 years ago by toobfreak
  • Latest reply from toobfreak
  1. toobfreak

    toobfreak

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    If you are not an audio gear nut or music hound, then never mind this thread. This ain't for you.

    To Master Po: Is it not being able to see that makes you tire of life?
    Master Po: No! It is being able to hear!
    Posted 2 years ago #
  2. pagan

    pagan

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    Toob Addiction? I miss read, thought it said TOOL, Lateralus is a great album

    Nowhere in the world will such a brotherly feeling of confidence be experienced as amongst those who sit together smoking their pipes
    Posted 2 years ago #
  3. cosmicfolklore

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    I used to know a kid with a mental condition (is mental condition an ok phrase?) that collected light bulbs. He had light bulbs that dated back to Edison's time. His dad was rich, so it made it easy for him to do this. He knew every aspect of everyone of those bulbs.
    I also like music, mostly vinyl, but know nothing about the equipment, except how to change needles and belts on the turntable.

    Michael
    Posted 2 years ago #
  4. grouchydog

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    JJ EL84's and NOS RCA 12AX7's in V1 and V2 of my Dr Z Maz Jr NR. I think a JJ rectifier (possibly a Russian cheapie), not sure what the phase inverter is (I think a high-gain JJ 12AX7). Love to roll some vintage '84's in the output stage but I ain't made of money...

    Posted 2 years ago #
  5. toobfreak

    toobfreak

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    I got the idea to start this thread after we got to talking about tubes on another thread. For those deeply interested in audio, tubes, music reproduction and electronics, I will share a little bit about the system I created for music a few years back.

    If this ain't your cup of tea, now is a good time to change channels.

    Here attached is a picture of the main equipment rack from 2014 while in the final phases of putting it all together and does not show it as it is today or even all involved, but the central core of the equipment. That will be enough.

    What is this? At the top is the CD player, it weighs 45 pounds and sits on a special isolation suspension. Above it (not seen) is the turntable. Normally these days, these are the only two main sources.

    The silver-paneled thing next down in the preamp that mostly controls everything. All custom built into an old 1970's chassis, it is also a phono preamp based on the 12AU7. It sets volume, balance, input selection and a few other basic things.

    Below that is an area of lots of knobs, lights and switches. Some of this again is all custom made. It is in four sections. The top two racks are electronic crossovers with equalizer which set the operating points for all the amplifiers. There are six power amplifiers involved. The next rack is just a row of power switches. Below that is a rack with more switches; this is the main power-up panel and cross-connects a variac (not seen) to the main system to bring the voltage up slowly on each amplifier to line one at a time, then cut it over to wall power. Turning the stereo on involves 17 steps. If you don't understand, never mind. Suffice it to say, no one touches it but myself.

    The system is fed from three 15 amp isolated circuits through a pair of isolation transformers.

    At the bottom of the picture are two QSC power amplifiers. There is a 15" sub-woofer (not seen) that is self-powered by a Class-H 1000W amplifier that goes from 15 Hz up to 80Hz essentially flat. Then the two QSC amps seen here power the mid-bass; two 18" 1000W drivers in vented enclosures that go from 80 to about 125Hz. These amplifiers are highly modified inside and run bridged in mono mode one for each channel at 900W each in balanced mode. In the rear, each (among other things) is fed cooled air via ducts from a 5000 BTU AC to keep from overheating. None of that was built yet when this picture was taken.

    Further stuff not seen is a stereo tube power amp where each side feeds one of the 15" midranges from about 125 to about 800Hz. And finally, there are two more mono tube power amps not seen where each feeds a horn tweeter cross-overed to a super tweeter above 800 and 8000Hz respectively. These are fed cooled air as well. So you have about 2700-2800 watts solid state power for the bass down to the lowest pipe organ note, and nearly 200 rms watts tube power for the mid-range and treble, altogether able to give a strain-free (no distortion, no-clipping, no limiting) reproduction of realistic music at live sound levels (around 130dB) that convincingly sounds like there is a live group right there in the room. Very groovy. Believe me, the thing ROCKS.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  6. grouchydog

    grouchydog

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    Whoah, I guess I'm just a poser... Impressive rack, as the Eskimo said to Mae West.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  7. toobfreak

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    Finally, here is one more decent picture taken I have from 2015 that shows a little more a little closer to the system actually in use.

    The equipment rack sits next to the operator from the listening chair. You can see the current turntable but I have two others much better but this one actually does the job very well. The table sits on a special isolation system I made. Behind it all, you can see one of the tube power amps.

    How you enjoyed seeing a little of one of my main hobbies!

    Posted 2 years ago #
  8. toobfreak

    toobfreak

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    Typo: Was supposed to say Hope, not How. Hope you enjoyed seeing it.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  9. toobfreak

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    Grouchydog, not familiar with JJ, had to look them up. I see they are Slovak. Bet they are pretty good. I think all the tubes in my system are all NOS American and German stuff. No Chinese or Russian stuff. I probably need around 30 tubes altogether for everything. 12AX7 is a good tube. A little more commonly used than the 12AU7A. Sounds like what you are talking about above is more musician gear for guitar, etc. Tubes are definitely the way to go. Better harmonic structure. Cheers!

    Posted 2 years ago #
  10. jpmcwjr

    jpmcwjr

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    Cool stuff!

    Anyone got an early Moog??

    I know that you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
    Posted 2 years ago #
  11. grouchydog

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    @toobfreak, cool stuff! Yes, I'm into guitars more than nuances of hi-fi (I like to hear a 100db Celestion with a ready-to-pop power-amp section following my Les Paul), so I'm not at your level of sonic discernment.

    12AX7 is a standard guitar preamp and PI valve (among other purposes); to reduce gain (and therefore distortion) some guys like to use a 12AY7, 12AT7 or 12AU7 or whatever, but at that point you gotta say "man, do I have the right amp in the first place?" So y'all hi-fi folk like to minimize distortion but we axe-slingers are like "what distortion sounds best?" The original designers of the tubes in question are probably spinning in their graves at what we do to their carefully-designed valves...

    S'all fun, no?

    Posted 2 years ago #
  12. cosmicfolklore

    Cosmic

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    Nice! Before I saw this, I was all satisfied with my turntable plugged into a cheap entertainment center for a TV. I wouldn't mind having something to plug my ukulele or banjo into.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  13. troutface

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    "Each of you be a light unto yourself; betake yourself to no external refuge. Hold fast to the Truth. Look not for refuge to anyone beside yourself." -The Buddha
    Posted 2 years ago #
  14. ssjones

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    Very interesting.

    I see these kind of amps for , how are they used?
    https://www.massdrop.com/vote/Mid-to-High-End-Tube-Headphone-Amps

    https://www.massdrop.com/buy/smsl-a2-stereo-amplifier

    Is their purpose to simply add a means to play digital music from a phone/other directly to a set of speakers?

    Al

    Posted 2 years ago #
  15. toobfreak

    toobfreak

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    Lateralus

    Pagan - never heard of them! But I checked them out on Youtube. Definitely something I might have to buy in the future. I'm always looking for new music.

    troutface - Ah, 300B's! Arguably the best tube ever designed. Real WE's. Those are pure gold. Single ended class-A, low wattage, but some of the purest sound in the world. As mentioned on the original thread, these were originally made to be put at the bottom of the ocean for intercontinental regenerative amplifiers where they never could be serviced. They had to work and last a long time. With efficient speakers you can probably get well into the 90 decibels sound level with sweet, transparent sound.

    Al - those are headphone amps. In the old days, receivers had a 1/4" phone plug (TRS) and a built in op-amp driver inside for low impedance (8 ohm) headphones. But they delivered degraded sound quality. A lot of people are buying these now as a personal high-end solution. They keep the sound to yourself so you don't wake or bother others. These are quality little amps that usually connect to a line level output on the back of the preamp or receiver designed to drive good headphones with very high quality sound. All the rage over the past 15 years or so as they give far better sound quality than cheap earbuds and an MP3 player, or the old built-in headphone jacks.

    There is a big company that always sends me catalogs called The Audio Advisor. Check them out. They will tell you all about headphone amps. You can call them up and talk to them. They sell lots of these too, lots of different kinds. I have not used any of them, if I use phones, I have a pair of high-impedance studio Sennheisers I just plug into a Line Out jack in the back of my preamp. Good headphones can run anywhere from under $100 to well over $2000. Some good brands worth checking out that I've used are AKG, Sennheiser and Joseph Grado. The Grado SR-60 is a very nice headphone for not too much money. For around $600 to around $1200, you can get some amazing planar electrostatic phones that are sheer delight.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  16. jefff

    jefff

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    I spent years lugging an Ampeg SVT around town. 16 tubes, 90 Lbs.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  17. mayfair70

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    Headphones - I have Sony MDR-V600's from about 1991. They were a hundred bucks then and have never let me down yet.

    Currently I'm rocking a Reader's Digest Radio/8-Track (15 watts I think) to power my KLH's. I'm betting somebody won a contest in the seventies. Never seen nor heard of one before. Everything else is in storage such as Pioneer receiver and Cerwin Vegas. I do have tubes coming out of my wazzoo, a few 6550's Westinghouse (?) or Sylvania and a bunch of smaller ones, mostly American NOS. I hope to build an amp someday and restore a bunch of stuff I have acquired over the years. I have some really old shit I cannot identify.

    The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made. -Groucho Marx
    Mouse-catcher on The Black Frigate
    Posted 2 years ago #
  18. bluegrassbrian

    bluegrassbrian

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    I'm all solid state..too much of my money goes to pipes!

    BUT I do have a couple thousand LPs, EPs, and 7"s.
    Current stereo is a Yamaha Yp-D71 Turntable (love this thing) with my favorite quadrophonic cartridge (Audio Technica ATS-34 I THINK).
    Hafler SE240/Iris amp and preamp. Onkyo Integra EQ, and an Onkyo dual cassette deck.

    Speakers at the moment are Ohm Walsh 2's. They really compliment my meager 2 way setup.

    Tobacco's a help because it clears the mind
    But like all your friends it is vilified
    They always say, the right amount's fine
    Posted 2 years ago #
  19. toobfreak

    toobfreak

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    David Hafler! Nice! Some of my tube amps are Hafler; I also have one of his IRIS preamps and his XL-280 power amp for my video system! The Ohm Walshes were classics. The 80's and 90's were a great time for audio!

    Posted 2 years ago #
  20. agnosticpipe

    Orley

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    I was a hard core audiophile for about 30 years, 70s, 80s, 90s. I bought more equipment over that time than I'd like to think about. Tube pre-amps from Dynaco to Conrad Johnson to Audio Research, and so on. Speakers from the tiny Pyramid Metronome 7 to the huge Magnaplanar Tympani 1-D. All kinds of amps again from Dynaco to Harmon Kardon Citation to Counter Point SA-2000 and so on. Turn tables, a few Thorens, modified AR with Infinity Black Widow arm, Oracle Delphi III with SME V arm. Way too much other stuff, tape players, CD players, and gobs of inter-connects and cables. After a while I realized I was listening to the equipment more than the music, and tubes were becoming too much like a religion. I now have a modest system that fulfills my needs, but because of tinnitus problems I don't enjoy it as much as I used to. I still love all kinds of music, and have hundreds of vinyl records and many CDs that I try to listen to from time to time. I know that now so much music is played through digital equipment that I can't grasp, so I never even read about the stuff anymore.

    You do have some very cool equipment though and I can only imagine the sound you can create with it. I take it you have a stand alone home?

    The pipe smoker formerly know as agnostic pipe
    "Fried food, hard liquor, and tobacco, that's the holy trinity!"- Stacy Keach
    Posted 2 years ago #
  21. troutface

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    Sorry about the photos, Photobucket sucks. Those 300B's are in an AudioNote Kit One. The input tube is a TungSol 6sn7 roundplates, which feeds a pair of TungSol 5687's that feed the 300B's. The rectifier is a TungSol 5u4g. The DAC is an AudioNote DAC 1.1x Signature which uses a pair of 6DJ8's for the output stage. I run Amperex gold pin 7308's in it, but also have gold pin Siemens 6922's and 7308's to roll. After my transport died I switched to a cheapie Cambridge player to use as a transport because I will eventually burn all my discs onto SD cards and run it from a tablet. The speakers are AudioNote AN-E's from a kit. I built the cabinets and veneered them in lacewood. Speaker cable is AudioNote copper, interconnects are AudioNote silver and power cables are custom made silver. I dread the day when my WE300B's die. A friend lent me some JJ's or some other well known alternative and they sounded like dogshit compared to the Western Electrics.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  22. toobfreak

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    Orley and all - yes, way too many audiophiles are more into the gear itself than the music. Constantly changing gear. If the gear is good, why the change? When I was young, like you, stereo equipment was everywhere. It seems like today, it is disappearing, younger kids seldom have a stereo or have ever even had one! If they do now, it is part of a home theater with 5.1 Dolby. I try to promote it as much as I can. Music is a very important part of my life, I will share some of it here but will be the first to also tell you that much of the high-end is very overpriced and a lie. If you venture into good consumer audio gear as some of you have, do so with caution.

    The question to ask is whether it sounds like good stereo or, DOES IT SOUND LIVE? What I showed is about a third of my complete stereo, but while some of it is stock, much of it has been highly modified and more pro sound than consumer. Much of the high end goes on about expensive wires and connections and all kinds of doodads to tweak your system. All at great cost. Good sound comes from solid fundamental circuit design. Orley asked, do I have a stand alone house? Yes, but I need more of a stand-alone neighborhood! I've had a few problems. Building this myself, I have about eight grand invested but were you to go out and want to buy my level of sound in a store (these days, you'd have to go to Chicago or New York), you might be into it for about $200,000. Of course, it would look a lot prettier and fancier and newer than what I have. A lot of money in high end gear goes into the looks.

    The high end can be a bottomless pit rip off. I had the advantage of growing up with an audio engineer as a best friend. You can spend a fortune and not get good sound. You can buy an old, beat up Dynaco Stereo 70 from the sixties and with a few other things have great sound for a few hundred dollars. But the truth is that no digital format I've heard yet equals the realism of a vinyl LP IF REPRODUCED RIGHT. Getting good playback of a record is a very difficult and complex problem.

    But most people don't want to be electrical engineers with a test bench just to hear music. Digital offers the best solution as you insert the disc, it is all optical, it almost never breaks down and gives very good sound. Tubes for all their advantages are difficult, expensive and unreliable. But if you are willing to invest the time and effort, it is like having a night club in your house and at your whim can have your band of choice over for a personal visit and performance! Almost as crazy as collecting hundreds of pipes!

    troutface - when you start talking Audio Note, TungSol and Amperex, you are talking about some of the best to be had. That is great stuff. Watch yourself burning those SD cards that there is no loss of quality. Cherish those 300B's, one of the great challenges of today is finding replacements that sound as good as the old stuff. I'm not sure anyone today builds them like Western Electric did (which was Bell Labs).

    But I'm glad to hear that audio is still at least alive and well with some of us in an age where it seems that everything I value in life seems to be either disappearing, increasingly illegal and/or nearly forgotten!

    Posted 2 years ago #
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    bigpond

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    Cool thread! My stuff is still boxed after our last move. I think I have profile photos on Audiogon though. Not that this stuff is all the exciting to look at.

    Trout, nice job on those cabinets. The lacewood looks great.

    Toob-that looks like the rack of a mad scientist. What is the Tascam for?

    Posted 2 years ago #
  24. toobfreak

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    Tascam, Tascam . . . I had to think---- oh yeah! You have good eyes. You mean the little recorder thing mounted off to the side. At the time I took the second picture, I had been experimenting with using it to A/D record some of my albums to 24-bit PCM, the highest resolution it will go, taken off of a line feed straight off the back of my preamp, then use it as a playback device. LP records have that one evil, every 20 minutes you have to get up and flip them over.

    With the Tascam I can just look up a digital file (I would upload them first from my computer a playlist for the night), hit play, then not have to move either until my pipe went out or I needed to refill my drink.

    It actually worked very well and most people would be pretty happy with it. Some albums came through sounding very live, very dynamic, pretty impressive, but in all cases, there was a loss, either a little or even a lot. My ear is very tuned to hear artifacts, even crossover-notch distortion, TIM, clipping and other audio failings.

    Its a pretty good unit especially for the price, but I'd need an even better ADC / DAC and maybe 26-28 bit resolution before I think I would not hear any loss. But I still have all of the files I created saved and maybe one of these days I will give it another swing. I'm trying real hard to make peace with digital.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  25. troutface

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    way too many audiophiles are more into the gear itself than the music

    That's pretty common. I started with Adcom stuff a long time ago. On a trip to Austria to visit my brother we went to visit his friend, who is an AudioNote dealer. My jaw about dropped when he hit the play button. I actually started laughing because the difference was so absurd. On my return I ordered a Soro PSE, which is a parallel single ended integrated that uses a pair of 6L6's per channel to give you about 18 watts. The sound was muscular but missed some finesse. I then switched to the 300B based Kit One and haven't looked back. I do listen to a fair amount of acoustic music and voice, so the 300B's really shine. They are surprisingly good at rock, but most rock recordings are terrible, so who cares. Because of a life spent in woodworking and hunting, my hearing is beginning to suffer, so I have no urge to spend more on equipment.
    You can spend a fortune and not get good sound.

    Truer words were never spoken. A noob just assumes more dollars=better sound. It can, but just like wine or pipes (or many other things in life), the correlation is a loose one.
    Watch yourself burning those SD cards that there is no loss of quality

    I have a friend who is an audiophile. He also happens to be blind and is an electrical engineer. He is my "technical advisor" when it comes to digital. He assures me that I can burn everything in true lossless quality now. He will set it up when I finally get around to it.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  26. toobfreak

    toobfreak

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    My jaw about dropped when he hit the play button. I actually started laughing because the difference was so absurd.

    The High-End is a dangerous place for consumers. Lots of people get pulled in by looks. A great deal of effort and money used to be put into things which made no difference in the sound. When Levinson first came around they were among the most highly touted! But the emphasis was on a totally noiseless, quiet background--- I cannot ever remember going to a live event and being able to hear a pin drop.

    If I sit in my room with no music playing, I will hear all kinds of sounds in the background: a little hum, hiss, maybe the occasional pop or even whistle! Some of this is self-generated and some comes in on the line. Best time to listen to music is late at night when all the businesses are closed and the power line is much cleaner.

    But consumer equipment is held to a totally different standard than pro-sound gear. In professional circles, the stuff has to work and be durable and reliable. There is no room for frills or cosmetics--- you are competing to deliver the best sound and feature set you can for the least amount of money otherwise the client goes somewhere else. I was lucky enough growing up to have an audio guru friend who worked in pro sound and eventually in the 1980's for a time, I worked with him in pro sound. Out the door goes all the gimmicks and hype.

    A lot of the consumer High-end is fraught with pixy dust and magic. All kinds of theories and claims that are either not understood by the maker himself or simply not backed up at all by physical science. Exotic cables, little blocks you sit on the amp, even green markers to coat the edge of your CD.

    It isn't until you get to the real high end (and AudioNote is way up there) that you really get to real hard solid engineering free of "little black boxes". I remember in the 70's, Audio Research came out with one called the Analog Module. Some solid state package that was supposed to play like a tube. Utterly failed.

    One thing my guru buddy taught me was the idea of designed obsolescence--- no consumer product is ever engineered to be as good as it can be. They leave room for improvement so that next year they can bring out the "new and improved" version. Consumerism is based on the idea that you keep trading in last year's model to buy the newest one, just a little better, and on it goes.

    It isn't until you get to the Highest-End or pro sound gear that you escape that endless loop. In pro sound it is simply a matter of no BS because the people using it know how things should sound and how things work. You have a very simple circuit topography. Straight-forward designs requiring minimal feedback. If I were to show you a block diagram of my system, it flies in the face of everything the High End tells me I should do or avoid! In the Highest-End it is a matter of building it to a high enough standard that you can charge enough for the gear that you can afford to make it good enough that the owner keeps it for a very long time and isn't trading it in every year! In effect, you are paying at once for many year's revisions.

    The whole point of audio is lost on the younger generation now because all they have heard is their iPad or laptop. They have never even heard an old 1970's Radio Shack stereo which was infinitely better! THE MEASURE OF SOUND QUALITY IS THIS: when you turn on the system and play your music, does it grab you by the balls and absolutely nail you back into the chair thrilling you? Draw you into the sound where you are quickly lost in an amazing world of visual images and dimension where you utterly forget that it is you sitting there in a room listening to it?

    You BECOME the music, hanging on for dear life riding it like a bucking brono and there is no thought of the time of day or what you need to do later on or tomorrow. No thought of: HERE I AM LISTENING TO THIS. there is no you, just the music, and you are swept up by it as a physical, dancing, swirling, playful force all around and through you that whisks you away to another world of timelessness and imagination. And when the music is finally over, you come out of it and say: WOW. INCREDIBLE. What the hell was THAT?!

    And you cannot wait to play another album and get right back into it. And another. You find yourself giggling, giddy with joy. It leaves you with goosebumps.

    If your music system does not absolutely sweep you away on a timeless journey of emotion, imagery and wonderment, then you still have not found the right gear and you are not hearing (nor have ever heard) music yet. ALL YOU HAVE HEARD IS HI-FI. For the ultimate goal of any music system is to suspend disbelief and make you feel that you are right there in the live event back with the musician as he plays just for you, standing right before you.

    If you have heard that live, then you know what I mean. The goal of audio is to bring that into the home. If the gear does not do it, then it is wrong. If the salesman tells you that cannot be done, then he does not know what he is talking about.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  27. ericusrex

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    Did you design and build that stuff yourself toob?

    Posted 2 years ago #
  28. toobfreak

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    Some of it. Very little is entirely stock. Turntable modified, CD player small mods. Preamp entirely custom made from an AR SP3-A preamp chassis reusing just the power transformer and a couple of the boards.

    Crossovers are standard issue pro sound rack units, there is another panel with switches used in the power-up / power-down totally made from scratch. The QSC amps for the mid-bass are heavily modified inside and I spent a lot of time on the phone with the company over that, plus not seen are two plug-in boxes that plug into the sides of those amps which modify their operation. They can be pulled out to return the amps to stock.

    There is a stereo tube amp which is almost stock, two other mono-chassis tube amps which are totally redesigned, the midrange-tweeter cabinets are still stock but will eventually be totally gutted and redesigned, the midbass cabinets have different drivers in them and all-new redesigned input circuitry. Finally, the sub is self powered and needs no modification.

    Maybe one of these days I'll post pictures of the other stuff.

    Posted 2 years ago #

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