Listening against the grain.

Discussion in 'Everything Audio' started by JohnVF, Nov 8, 2018.

  1. MikeT.

    MikeT. Senior Member

    @airdronian , you had a VERY nice system at 15 years old, WOW!
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  2. TubeHiFiNut

    TubeHiFiNut Administrator Staff Member

    I originally posted the following in the Introductions room way back when:

    Reposting it here as it seems to fit:

    Chapter 1. Back When I Was Young

    Long ago, back in 1972, a brash young music lover got a job at the local Lafayette store.

    My only experience with the hi-fi culture was from my youth (tube-type consoles, portable record players and a Panasonic Receiver/Turntable combo) and from my growing desire to have a 'real' hi-fi and the accompanying research (mostly catalogs - Lafayette, Warehouse Sound, Radio Shack).

    I've always been a quick study and, in no time, was making some very decent coin selling stereos, quadraphonic systems, CB Radios, tubes, parts, etc.....

    Time to buy a HiFi.....!

    Quadraphonic, baby.....the future of home entertainment.

    So home comes a Lafayette LR4000 quad receiver, four Marantz Imperial 7 speakers and a Pioneer PL12D turntable with a Shure M91ED cartridge. Got me some 4-channel SQ records and Iwas off to the races.

    Definitely much better sound than the Panasonic. My parents tube-type console had a certain something, though, that seemed to be missing.

    And the more I listened to Quadraphonic, the less I liked it. Sound effects and music swirling around the speakers is only cool for so long.

    Could the seeds of my current Audio ADD be planting doubt?

    Chapter 2. The HiFi Dreams Of My Youth - Demolished

    One thing about working at the hi-fi store, I met lots of good folks and really expanded my understanding of what one can do with a home stereo.

    One home that played host to several of us really changed how I view our hobby. I thought that Marantz 7s and JBL L100s were the baddest boys on the block. Upon entering the basement sound room I was greeted by two large gray cabinets with large horns on top - Altec A7s. They were driven by a Marantz 2270. Source was a Garrard Zero-100 with a Shure V15 III.

    Hardly ideal source and amp but those speakers!!!!!!!!!!!! I'd never heard anything like them in a home before. What dynamics.....effortless! Contrast and scale in spades!

    My mind was blown.

    I went home that night and tried to listen to my beautiful 'little' Quadraphonic system.....How could it sound this bad? Turned it off and put it all up for sale the next day.

    I was on a mission.....!

    Chapter 3: Discovery or "Why do those glowing bottles sound soooooooooo much better?"

    One of the joys of working in an audio store is "employee accommodation" pricing. :)

    A couple of quick calls and a pair of Altec 873a Barcelona speakers were on the way. Also a Manantz 3600, a Marantz 250 and a Dual 701 with Audio Technica AT15Sa cartridge.

    Speakers arrived. Amp arrived. Table and cartridge arrived.....Preamp was back-ordered. Crap.....

    One of my really good customers from the store bailed me out and sold me an older Marantz preamp, a 7C, to tide me over until the 3600 arrived. Now, much to the chagrin of the neighbors, we are rocking!

    Took the 3600 the better part of a month to arrive. When it did, I eagerly brought it home and hooked it up in place of that old tube 7C preamp. Newer had to be better, right? I listened......and listened.....and listened some more.

    What happened????? The sound emanating from the Altecs was painful. Long, sharp needles were being inserted into my ears. This cannot be right. I must have hooked something up incorrectly or, horrors, damaged something.

    But no.......putting the Marantz 7C back into the system brought instant relief. Now we were making beautiful music again.

    Time went on and I replaced the Marantz 250 with an ESS Eclipse amp (really not a bad sand amp) but then, the seeds of my total spiral into tube addiction were planted in the form of a McIntosh MC275 that I was able to purchase.

    Holy......Crap.....What a totally svelte, suave and addictive sound. So this is what music in the home is supposed to sound like!

    Replaced the Dual 701 with an Empire 598. Added the Denon DL103 LOMC and AU320 SUT but, other than that, this system remained pretty much in place for a few years until AudioADD really took control and I got on the Audio Merry-Go-Round big time.....

    That's as far as I have gotten with this story, so far.

    I do intend to add my excursions into Magnepans, electrostats, high end conventional speakers, stand mounts, etc. one of these days. ;)

    Thanks, again, for starting a great thread, @JohnVF . Very enjoyable reading. :)
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  3. John Frum

    John Frum Junior Member

    I grew up poor, worked in record stores for ten years as a kid, and fell ass-backwards into vintage audio about the time I got out of college. There was the much-ballyhooed "value" of vintage gear, and I bought into it it because, rather unsurprisingly, the better bits of 70s gear that still worked well were far better than anything I'd been exposed to up to that point.

    It was also that finding a vintage piece for short money became a "hit" (I'm seriously glad my addictive streak doesn't run towards gambling or hard drugs), and I started dealing to support my habit. I sold some stuff I never should have. All available storage became overrun with the lower-tier and non-working gear that's less exciting to sell, and several bulk sell-offs, for what were essentially thrift store prices, certainly made me question how good the bargains actually were.

    I got locked into some unproductive product obsessions. I was slow to pick up practical knowledge, but talked a load of jive online about things I knew very little about. I spent more time reading other people's opinions about audio than listening to it or getting my hands dirty. I got too involved with some of the more toxic elements of forum culture and participation. I paid for some very disappointing full restorations. My hearing got a lot worse. I stayed poor, and I sold some stuff I never should have. I left a trail of uncompleted projects in my wake. I parted out pieces that should have stayed intact. I was slow to glom onto tubes and high efficiency, despite some of the people I considered most knowledgeable about the subject of audio IRL having told me I'd eventually wind up there.

    I use the past tense above. To be honest, though, most of the negative behaviors and situations I describe are things I still struggle with. I don't know if I'm getting over gear hoarding via personal growth, or if it's a direct consequence of my settling down with a partner and the rich deposits of silver having gone dry. I still spend too much time just browsing audio forums, and when I post, I frequently show my ass.

    Good stuff has happened in my audio journey, too. I have a hobby that I almost keep cash-neutral. I get personal satisfaction here and there. My technical skills and knowledge, such as they are, are improving dramatically. I had a fun time working in the industry for a while, working my way up from retail clerk to product line manager for an electronics company you've heard of and likely ordered from. I've met some really great people. I'm more apt to be purposeful in my purchases, as opposed to entirely opportunistic. I'm learning to be happy with what I've got, and aim my ambitions higher, in the most realistic ways I can manage. I've grown up a lot, and even mellowed out a little. I've learned to trust my ears more than people on the internet; they aren't perfect, but we make a better team than ever. I've learned what I want from the audio hobby (more DIY, more joy, less clutter, less AK) and I know more about what sorts of audio approaches I favor in terms of sound, philosophy, personal involvement/investment, and aesthetics.

    That last bit is what led me to the group of folks here. Maybe I'm still just following the crowd. But it's a pretty good crowd. I've been at this audio thing about 12 years. In that time, I've seen some of you (in this thread!) accomplish tremendous things. I am humbled, and honored to be entertained, humored, and educated at Hi-Fi Haven.
  4. Thermionics

    Thermionics Post Whore In Training

    Don't be so modest, John. Kim Deal has never told me she likes my beard! :D
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  5. Thanks, and I'll check it out. Putting together a system isn't an issue. I'm pretty happy with my current set up, but am contemplating a radical change. Decisions, decisions.

    Watching you guys, putting together systems 2, 3, 4 and pieces of 5, 6, 7, with more components sitting in reserve cause, well it was a deal! I'm jealous. You have the knowledge to see an older component, know what it is, know that it's priced right, and know what other components it'll match well with. Lets set aside budget and space; and just focus on those first three. My audio buddy, Sam can do that. It's ok though. What I've been doing so far is working for me. I like my set up. The sound and the aesthetic.

    There is one Pioneer product line that I remember seeing but couldn't afford at the time. It might be garbage today, but boy did I want to buy one at the time. If I found one now I'd be tempted to get one for that garage. I think they were made in the 90s, but it might of been mid to late 80s. not sure. It was the Pioneer SX-6, 8, etc. I thought they were SO cool looking.

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  6. airdronian

    airdronian Junior Member

    That's where a lot of the earnings from my part time jobs went. It was of necessity that my first car was VERY cheap. :smile:
  7. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator Staff Member

    Having a memory or emotional connection to a piece of gear is priceless. And those Pioneer components probably sound pretty decent (as long as somebody else is on deoxit duty for all those little buttons).
  8. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator Staff Member

    My path in less wordy form was "I'm going to do all old stuff!" then "I'm going to do all new stuff!" and after hearing it all, it became "It's just going to be good stuff". Age varied according to what it was. The one thing I've found is that generally, I don't like old speakers (pre-1990ish)
    ICTWoody, fiddlefye and Don C like this.
  9. MikeO

    MikeO Active Member

    This is the from the Pioneer Communication Series line from the early 80s and is definitely not junk at all. I have had a couple of pieces over the years (if I recall the top of the line A9 integrated and a receiver midway down the range, maybe even the SX6.) The receivers often pop up on the local Craigslist or Kijiji for under $100). Lots of information online but from what I recall the main issue with them was that the appearance was so drastically different from what people expected that they just didn't sell well. The A9 I had was a very fine integrated although I think they fetch a fair bit of money these days as most of the TOTL models of any vintage gear does while the mid and low ends seem to fetch much less.

    Just found a very nice product catalog from 1982 of the Communication series from the HiFi Engine website. Absolutely beautiful.
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  10. fiddlefye

    fiddlefye Senior Member

    I'm not sure how lonely one can be in that state, at least around here. It seems to me like most of us have a foot in any number of camps simultaneously. I certainly do. The camp I am most definitely in is the "Financial Reality" Camp, meaning that new gear has never been plentiful. What the heck, most of it was new at some point in my lifetime, right? Sorta like that meme that says "when I think of thirty years ago I think of the 70s" - CD players still seem "new" to me.

    My main goal has always been to have a system that did everything reasonably well, especially the classical repertoire. Back when I first got into audio in the 70s it seemed like most systems tended to do one genre better than the others. As I moved up the ladder a bit over time I discovered that the better the system, the more it could do justice to most (if not all) genres.

    I've always been interested in tube gear having grown up with my father's home-brew Williamson amp, so after a decade with the Yamaha CA-410-based system I decided to go with a tube system. In the mid-80s this was really rowing hard against the stream, at least in these parts. The one good audio store in town didn't have a single piece with a tube in it. Then again I've spent my life in general somehow anticipating trends (or else being really behind the times, take yer pick) so no real surprise. I ended up getting a Harmon Kardon HK250/Dyna PAS3 combo and I loved it - until I started hearing what it was lacking. It was a more interesting, vibrant sound than the CA-410 at least. Then the HK started having issues and I borrowed the CJ MV-45 to fill in while it was getting repaired. Needless to say, the MV-45 stayed and the HK250 was never seen again. It also brought out the many shortcomings of the PAS3, so after using the pre-out on a Yamaha CA-1010 as pre-amp for a time (vastly better phono stage) I ended up with the CJ PV-12, which pairing I am listening to as I type at the moment (Bryan Ferry - Bête Noire). I've been chastised on a forum or two for liking my CJ pairing, but with the right tube complement I still love it. I have the Anthem Pre-1 that gets rotated in now and again and a couple of Mac MC250s for when the weather heats up. I had a few SS Quads, a Krell etc. pass through and none of them really pushed the right buttons for long.

    Speakers are a separate voyage - EPI M50s for the first decade or so, then a pair of Yamaha NS-1000s (sold when I got offered silly money for them), NS-690s (which I preferred), Vandersteen, various B&W and now the Reference 3A mm de Capos.

    Tuners - I was without FM for a long time and then discovered how much good listening there was to be had around this area and now have a little gaggle of them ranging from a Scott tube unit to Magnum Dynalab and Accuphase.

    Turntables have come and gone, starting with the cheap, mediocre Technics SL-20 of my student days. Next came the Thorens TD-125 (restored this past summer) which was the mainstay for a very long time along with discovering MC carts for the first time. Now of course the DP-80 has taken over prime duties and I don't see ever making a further change in that area. Ok, maybe and arm or two and of course carts will come and go.

    Woven through all of this is a thread of vintage gear. Of course, some of the "vintage" pieces I have were either new or just plain used when I got them, but I've gone through a pile of the usual culprits over the years - receivers and especially integrateds. I find it very hard to turn down things like a 100 w/ch 70s receiver for $5. I still have quite a few, but most are in residence in a half dozen secondary systems hither and yon, giving pleasure and generally requiring no attention.

    There are yet more paths I'd like to tread yet, though. I wouldn't mind trying a good single-ended amp sometime, perhaps modern, SS and really fine, maybe one of those Redboy transformer pre arrangements? The thing is - I've found a sound signature I like, that puts the music across for me. I'm always open to improvements, but within that basic character and suited to the smallish listening space I have to work with.
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  11. Audionut

    Audionut Next Round Is On Me

    Similar path as most; walked into a skateboard shop looking to buy my daughter a “penny board” and a warm sound caught my ear. I looked over and an unassuming little receiver with a wood case sat there (nothing fancy). So on the hunt I was for my own wood covered warm sounding vintage receiver! I was fortunate to find pioneer separates with beautiful wood cabinets (I’d buy them again in a heart beat). I looked them up for more info/maintenance and stumbled across AK. Biggest mistake was looking into their pics of your listening space. This triggered lots of drooling, coveting and many unnecessary purchases.
    Tried most silver faced receivers and several “monster” ones too. I liked sansui more than all, until I landed a Mcintosh. It did everything the sansui did but better and it was much more reliable (no deoxit needed). Eventually I stumbled upon a Harman Kardon A300, my first tube unit. This unit did a lot of the things I enjoyed in the Sansui and mcintosh but it was more organic If you will.
    Two AK driven purchases and eventual sales allowed me to cross paths with a stand up fellow (@marantzfan ). He was kind enough to allow me a listen to his SET...setup and I was floored! He told me of this great site, which helped me kick my AK habit and graduate to the hard stuff (better quality and higher cost:)). I’m learning and enjoying myself here. Oh, liking new and old system components as I journey to an “end all system” if that even exists.:chin
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  12. Audionut

    Audionut Next Round Is On Me

    Norovirus = :Flush(this will probably be the only opportunity I have to use this emoji).
  13. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator Staff Member

    Though records aren't against the grain anymore, I got into them for a different reason than many today. I started collecting records my junior year of high school in early 1991, and not because I thought they sounded good. In fact, I didn't think they sounded very good at all. I started buying them because I had no money, and in 1991 records were CHEAP. I could buy one cassette for about $9, or a record for $1 or 50 cents. I couldn't afford CDs back then, though my parents had a player. A "rich" girl I dated gave me a Pink Floyd CD and I had to immediately dub it to cassette to listen to it outside of the family living room.

    It was actually my parents who got me into it. They'd gone to the fleamarket by themselves and and came home with 3 records for me. They had no idea what I liked so its as if they just grabbed 3 random records to see if one stuck. Hall & Oats Greatest Hits, The Captain & Tennille (??), and .....LED ZEPPELIN I. "They have cheap records at the flea market and you have a record player in that stereo we got you!"

    So I ran to the telephone. "Brian! (my best music buddy) They have Zeppelin records at the flea market for a dollar! Let's go!"

    And so Brian and I went to the Hartville Ohio Flea Market, and fell in love with records. There was a very old guy with a cowboy hat who just had a ton of records, we looked through all the dozens of boxes. About $20 later, all we had, we were 20 albums richer. My favorite part of that was balking at "Cowboy" for the $5 price on a MFSL Original Master Recording Dark Side of the Moon (hahaha). We walked away from it, and being big Floyd fans, we both regretted it upon learning what MFSL was. I bought that two years ago, finally, even though I have multiple other copies of that over-exposed album. The first thing I did was text a photo of it to Brian. "25 years, buddy. Got it."

    I still have all the records I bought that last year and a half I lived in Ohio. It would be another decade until I even realized how good records could sound. Sound quality wasn't even a part of it for me. I liked the size of records, the artwork, and the fact that it was this big physical thing that remained the exact same physical thing every time I played it. When I pull out Led Zeppelin I, its the same copy my parents bought me. If I get on a nostalgia trip and pull out Led Zeppelin II, its the LZ II that Brian and I found that first day we discovered how awesome record collecting was.

    I'm sitting here listening to an album as I type this. Records have been one of the greatest joys of my life. I cannot say that about a file, or something I streamed. The memories attached to them, you can't attach to a file. You can't hold a file in your hand. A file does not bring back that summer in 1991 with your best friend, discovering life to a soundtrack created by grooves in vinyl.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018
  14. mhardy6647

    mhardy6647 Señor Member

    Exactly so.
    I feel this way about clocks, too (FWIW).

    [​IMG]clockfront by Mark Hardy, on Flickr
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  15. mhardy6647

    mhardy6647 Señor Member

    I think that some of this stuff (hifi hardware, clocks, heck, maybe some early computing hardware), like a 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, has a soul. Not soul, but real indwelling spirit.

    James Smith McDonnell (of McDonnell Aircraft -- later McDonnell Douglas -- fame) was reputed to have believed that his aircraft were inhabited by spirits. Thus did some of his aircraft receive names like Banshee, Goblin, Demon, and Phantom. He was probably bat-feces crazy, but it's a cool story. I didn't even read it on the internet -- I read it in a book (not that I have a bibliographic citation to share)*.

    This kind of animism has a place in technology, methinks, at some level. :)


    * EDIT: OK, here's something :) Kinda sketchy, tho':
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018
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  16. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator Staff Member

    That machine-animism reminds me of this early 1970s couch my wife and I just bought a little over a month ago. We had wanted something else, but this showed up at an antique store. It was in mint condition, absolutely like new. And it seemed more comfortable in the store. Getting it home, we realized why it was in such perfect condition. It's the most uncomfortable piece of furniture I've ever sat on. Two days ago, the couch we really wanted went on sale so I bought that, to be shipped here in a month. This started a conversation about the first couch, about how excited it must have been to have finally been adopted only to have its new parents decide a month later that they, like all the other sitters on the is couch, had to give it back. And it actually made us sad, even though we're both scientifically minded people..that this couch might have some sad soul in it, just wanting to be sat on, only to be given back over and over because its really cool looking, but really uncomfortable. Poor couch.
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  17. Olson_jr

    Olson_jr Active Member

    Ha, I thought this thread was going to be about a Rory Gallagher album.

  18. fiddlefye

    fiddlefye Senior Member

    Similar path here, though a much earlier version and with a "2.0" starting about 1990. As a kid all we ever had for records in the house were a few classical LPs (I just about wore out the Toscanini Beethoven symphonies No.1 and 9 boxed set) and a few Broadway shows (most of those were actually on reel-to-reel). Oh, and Mitch Miller (who I did a tour with decades later - really talented, tough musician as it turned out). At some point I managed to scrape together a few shekels and started buying a very few pop LPs; Emerson, Lake and Palmer, CSNY, Neil Young, Chicago etc. I still have all of them (except Chicago Transit Authority which some "friend" borrowed and never returned - grrrrr). I had crap to play them on and they didn't sound very good, but the music, oh my. As John said - when I pull one out I remember where I bought it, the first time I put it on the record player (nothing so fancy as a "turntable"), the times with friends listening to them and talking about the music. When I pull one out and put it on the turntable I'm sometimes in awe of the amazing sound that was always latent in those grooves had I but had the technology to access it! By the mid-70s my record buying had veered off into almost exclusively classical and jazz recordings. Disco and hair bands had started to crop up everywhere and the music just didn't do much for me by and large.

    In the late 80s I finally put together the funds to buy a cheap CD player and went that direction for a few years. They sounded better than I was managing to get my LPs to come out and of course it was the tech of the times, everything previous was clearly inferior (right...).

    Then along came Vinyl 2.0. I started noticing piles of LPs turning up in the thrifts for next to nothing (sometimes as little as 15¢ each) and at yard sales. So I dove in with both feet. Beethoven Bicentennial boxed set (everything he composed) for $25? Sure! Over a few years the collection went from a couple of hundred to a few thousand, classical, jazz, rock - heck even a bunch of Broadway. Over the past year or two I've finally started getting into buying new vinyl, music completely unknown to me... loving it!

    After FM I now listen to LPs far more than any other source and they sound better than anything other source I have as well. As I said before, it amazes me at all of that latent musical goodness hiding in those grooves that I wasn't hearing for all of those decades.
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  19. TubeHiFiNut

    TubeHiFiNut Administrator Staff Member

    Amen and well said.

    Been collecting records since I was a kid. Still have most of the records I bought with my paper route earnings from the 1960s.

    Have continued to purchase new and used records through the years. Records remain my primary and favorite source.
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  20. ICTWoody

    ICTWoody Junior Member

    What did you get? My listening room couch isn't vintage, or that comfy... I want to replace it and I ordered a BluDot Sunday Sofa during their big annual sale a couple weeks ago. But then they emailed saying it was back-ordered until March. I canceled the order (but they will honor the sale if I re-order) to shop around. Going to Kansas City next month to see what I can find.

    - Woody

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