You can't go home again.

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I recently went from living in a house and an apartment, to living in just the apartment. The speed of the move, and the look of the apartment, dictate that my main stereo is in storage for the foreseeable future. That's also being dictated by my own curiosity. Can I be happy with where I was on this stereo adventure 10 years ago? Can you be ok with going backwards? It was one thing when it was an extra system laying around. Its another when its all there is to listen to.

I'm down to:

Restored/recapped Harman Kardon "The Citation Receiver". A trip back to my receiver collecting days, 10+ years ago.
Mitsubish LT-30 linear tracking table with a Signet MM cart and AT line contact stylus. Also something I was running about 10 years ago.
No phono stage, just plugged into the receiver.
iFi Zen Blue bluetooth receiver/Dac for digital. A little $130 device for streaming from the phone.
Sony SS-m3 speakers. The standmount versions of the Sony SS-m7s that were the mainstay of my system ten years ago.

So, how's it working out?

Well, i'm listening differently, There's no 'critical listening' where I sit in the sweet spot and marvel at the imaging and pick out instruments and follow individual parts. It doesn't do that kind of thing very well, but it has a knack for filling the room with fun sound. Plus, there's actually no chair in the sweet spot. I could move one, but the room isn't set up for that. I mostly lay on the couch or sit in a chair to the side, and scroll through songs on Spotify looking for new music. I'm not visiting the overplayed audiophile albums marveling at the pretty sound anymore, which is good. But I'm also not as into any particular piece of the music.

Records are far less satisfying, In fact, if records sounded like this to me all the time now, I wouldn't bother anymore. They're ok for putting on and having in the background. If I'm concentrating on them, I lose interest or just notice how off it sounds compared to what I recently had. Frankly, the phono stage on the HK, even restored, sucks. But, that has always been my opinion of 70s receiver phono stages...and this sounds exactly like most of them.

So I will be, at least, digging out one of my phono stages. Probably the Juicy Music Tercel II as it'll allow for some needed tone and color.

Digital through bluetooth w/Tidal sounds pretty good. The Zen Blue thing is a surprise. Gives up a bit of detail for musical fun but I'm thrilled that its not too analytical so that Spotify sounds as bad as its capable of sounding. It brings the good and leaves behind the bad.

I LOVE the Sony SS-m3s. Which isn't surprising as I loved the Sony SS-m7s, and in many ways found them not far off from my Harbeths. They're capable of more than this setup is currently giving them, but the power of the HK seems a good match, and the HK is hampered by its source gear right now (and a seriously off the pace phono stage).

The verdict... um.... I can go back but I'm not particularly satisfied with it. Kind of like how I feel when I revisit my hometown in Ohio again. It's comforting in a way but a few days in and I want out.

My wife LOVES the Citation Receiver (its so pretty and so 1970s) so I'll just have to work around the phono stage. The rest is good, but the phono stage is crap. The Mitsubishi is going to get a much better cart. And for digital? Depends on how good I can get records to sound. It may stay as fun background.

The setup I broke down and put in storage was a LOT better. So audio didn't peak in the 1970s, but this is fun. For now.

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I like the Citation Receiver. Also, I really want to hear it with a better phono stage run into it.

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The Sony SS-m3s are the standmount standouts here. And they're super cool looking (and well built).

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Ground control to Major Tom.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
A few positive notes.

It’s really cool looking! I wish my other system looked this cool.

I love the operation of it. The touch sensitive input selection on the HK (futuristic! Even now), the push buttons on the big Mitsubishi table. And how it’s all centered around one unit instead of a mountain of separate components.

And the Sony speakers are wonderful. Especially considering the few hundred I paid for them.
 

airdronian

Radar Member
That really is quite a change for you. Hope you can find a happy medium where you can appreciate the strong points.

I've been going thru a process with the Luxman table. It has a sound, and I'm not sure a rewire will solve it. And I'm also not sure I want it solved.
 

MikeO

Active Member
Looks wonderful. Just a couple of comments as someone else who has gone back to late 70s receivers and "downgraded" from modern amplification. I do think the phono stage on particularly the late 70s receivers were their weak point. I read that a lot of them were going with single chip phono stages at that point and they weren't particularly good. Don't know for sure if that is the case but it makes sense as I found earlier receivers and modern phono preamps to sound better on vinyl. If sound quality of vinyl is a priority then an external phono stage will likely make a big difference. Even if just hidden behind the unit. This is no longer an issue for me as I only stream now.
Second, doesn't the blue sound node do Bluetooth. It's not much bigger than your Bluetooth device and would also allow for higher quality wifi streaming? Of course I also get if you would rather experiment with reduced expectations and just use Bluetooth.
And most importantly I do think it is a very valuable experiment to occasionally settle for less in order to reset our base level of experience. The psychological term is hedonic adaptation and essentially refers to adapting to our current environment. At first luxury seems amazing but we adapt very quickly. It can become our normal state and therefore not exceptional. Resetting our normal, can help us appreciate what we have given up even more. Think how much better a hot shower feels after a week of camping than it does as part of our everyday routine.
Anyway, I love your current system although I will also admit to some envy for your bigger systems as well. Especially the Leben amp and the harbeths speakers.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Looks wonderful. Just a couple of comments as someone else who has gone back to late 70s receivers and "downgraded" from modern amplification. I do think the phono stage on particularly the late 70s receivers were their weak point. I read that a lot of them were going with single chip phono stages at that point and they weren't particularly good. Don't know for sure if that is the case but it makes sense as I found earlier receivers and modern phono preamps to sound better on vinyl. If sound quality of vinyl is a priority then an external phono stage will likely make a big difference. Even if just hidden behind the unit. This is no longer an issue for me as I only stream now.
Second, doesn't the blue sound node do Bluetooth. It's not much bigger than your Bluetooth device and would also allow for higher quality wifi streaming? Of course I also get if you would rather experiment with reduced expectations and just use Bluetooth.
And most importantly I do think it is a very valuable experiment to occasionally settle for less in order to reset our base level of experience. The psychological term is hedonic adaptation and essentially refers to adapting to our current environment. At first luxury seems amazing but we adapt very quickly. It can become our normal state and therefore not exceptional. Resetting our normal, can help us appreciate what we have given up even more. Think how much better a hot shower feels after a week of camping than it does as part of our everyday routine.
Anyway, I love your current system although I will also admit to some envy for your bigger systems as well. Especially the Leben amp and the harbeths speakers.

The main cause of all this is that I originally thought I had 3 weeks to pack up my little house in Michigan for a move back to Chicago (where we still had a 1 bedroom apartment). Thanks to The Virus, and everything starting to close down, that got condensed to 4 days of day-and-night panic-packing. Everything made it in a box, but the boxes were a bit vaguely labeled and things that should have been in one box got spread out over 4. Add to that my mind not being totally in the moment when the movers were unloading. So... even the elements of the old system that could hop on over here to fix the shortcomings, are buried alive.

For example... I know where my Juicy Music phono stage is, but the SUT is buried. AND...so are all of my cables. As they're with the SUT. So I though whatever, I'll just do this setup for a bit, which I purposefully left non-audiophile because my wife likes ease-of-use. She's yet to figure out how the BlueSound operates. The Zen Blue thing is simple, its like pairing your phone in the car.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I do think the phono stage on particularly the late 70s receivers were their weak point.

That was my finding when I collected a whole bunch of them, which surprised me. Even back then I'd almost always bypass the onboard phono stage with a relatively cheap NAD PP2 phono stage that I had. That applied to everything. Sansui 9090db, Pioneer SX-1280, Sony STR-6800SD. I can't remember if I tried the phono stage on my MAC-4100 but I wish I'd kept that unit, it was nice. I just sold my MAC-1900 but I suspect it had a better phono stage than the Citation here.

With line-input, the Citation is a nice sounding unit. And its got gads of tone control options, which I admit to have geeked-out over.
 

MikeO

Active Member
I always notice in your photos how great the wood finishes look on your gear. Just wondering if you use any special cleaners or polishes on the speakers to make it look that good. Or is it just you are a great photographer?
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I always notice in your photos how great the wood finishes look on your gear. Just wondering if you use any special cleaners or polishes on the speakers to make it look that good. Or is it just you are a great photographer?
I apply an oil, like teak oil (Behlen is the brand I used) with 000 steel wool then buff it out by hand. Sometimes I do a really fine sanding before. I also like Howard's Feed n' Wax for a quick cheat. Good light helps hide things..the speakers do have a few dings. They came from a Goodwill in California I think? I ordered them off their online marketplace.
 

MikeO

Active Member
I apply an oil, like teak oil (Behlen is the brand I used) with 000 steel wool then buff it out by hand. Sometimes I do a really fine sanding before. I also like Howard's Feed n' Wax for a quick cheat. Good light helps hide things..the speakers do have a few dings. They came from a Goodwill in California I think? I ordered them off their online marketplace.
Goodwill? Hard to believe a beautiful set of speakers like that went to Goodwill. I almost bought a pair of the Sony speakers years ago but they always seem to be in the black finish up here. If I saw a pair in a wood finish I would give them a try. I noticed what looked like ports on the back of the pair I was interested in. I asked the seller to confirm and he said he had drilled ports to give better bass. Needless to say I didn't buy them.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I should have put a condition in the sale.

The inspiration for its design is a late 70’s Trans Am. Subtle ain’t what it’s supposed to be.
I’m going on the assumption that what it was originally supposed to be is what it originally looked like. Satin oiled wood that looked like wood ;).
 

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
Goodwill? Hard to believe a beautiful set of speakers like that went to Goodwill. I almost bought a pair of the Sony speakers years ago but they always seem to be in the black finish up here. If I saw a pair in a wood finish I would give them a try. I noticed what looked like ports on the back of the pair I was interested in. I asked the seller to confirm and he said he had drilled ports to give better bass. Needless to say I didn't buy them.

Goodwill down there and up here are very different things.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Goodwill? Hard to believe a beautiful set of speakers like that went to Goodwill. I almost bought a pair of the Sony speakers years ago but they always seem to be in the black finish up here. If I saw a pair in a wood finish I would give them a try. I noticed what looked like ports on the back of the pair I was interested in. I asked the seller to confirm and he said he had drilled ports to give better bass. Needless to say I didn't buy them.
People. Yuck.

The larger SS-m7s bordered on boomy. Almost too much bass. These sound very similar, they are really nice... I specifically sought them out.
 

kirk57

Junior Member
I like the way the angle of those Sony's echo the angles of the credenza.

Figuring out one's 'good enough' point is often the next step after acquiring so much gear, some expensive, some not so much, and finding that there isn't always a direct correlation between cost and value.

Currently my main amp is a thrift store find Magnavox, the second one a curbside JVC, and the third one is a $20 Lepai.

Go ahead, laugh. I no longer care. :)
 

fiddlefye

Senior Member
It really is an incredibly attractive system, no doubt about it. The Citation is stunning and those Sonys - I've lusted after a pair of those from time to time, but they never seem to turn up.

While I would heartily agree there's no going back it is wonderful to have alternatives. Sometimes all I want to hear is this while I'm preparing a meal. Good FM and the odd CD and it sounds just right.
DSC_7892 by fiddlefye, on Flickr
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
It really is an incredibly attractive system, no doubt about it. The Citation is stunning and those Sonys - I've lusted after a pair of those from time to time, but they never seem to turn up.

While I would heartily agree there's no going back it is wonderful to have alternatives. Sometimes all I want to hear is this while I'm preparing a meal. Good FM and the odd CD and it sounds just right.
DSC_7892 by fiddlefye, on Flickr
I've had systems like this one ever since I started my obsession, this is just the first time I've only had one setup, and where the one setup is more like my "other options" systems. Right before I left my house I had the main system, a bedroom system, a den system, an office system, a basement workbench system, and a 2-channel home theater system. Plus this setup here, which I put together about 6 months ago without the intention of it being my only stereo. Much of that excess has been sold or is being sold at this moment.

For the first time in my life I'm running into that 'wife acceptance factor" thing...she loves the Citation Receiver. I think that's ok, most of the issues here are source related.
 

fiddlefye

Senior Member
I've had systems like this one ever since I started my obsession, this is just the first time I've only had one setup, and where the one setup is more like my "other options" systems. Right before I left my house I had the main system, a bedroom system, a den system, an office system, a basement workbench system, and a 2-channel home theater system. Plus this setup here, which I put together about 6 months ago without the intention of it being my only stereo. Much of that excess has been sold or is being sold at this moment.

For the first time in my life I'm running into that 'wife acceptance factor" thing...she loves the Citation Receiver. I think that's ok, most of the issues here are source related.
I've no history of WAF issues, thank goodness. I understand your darling's love of the Citation as I'm sure it sounds quite good and is almost absurdly beautiful. Solve the phono aspect and be happy for the nonce.

Running multiple systems all over the place is a recent phenomenon for me, the past half decade or so. Prior to that it was one system for better or for worse.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I've no history of WAF issues, thank goodness. I understand your darling's love of the Citation as I'm sure it sounds quite good and is almost absurdly beautiful. Solve the phono aspect and be happy for the nonce.

Running multiple systems all over the place is a recent phenomenon for me, the past half decade or so. Prior to that it was one system for better or for worse.
I like this one-system thing, I just wish it came with good sounding vinyl playback.
 
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