The classic journey continues, with some welcome "new" additions


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AVForums Member
Sep 10, 2014
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Randburg, Gauteng
Firstly, apologies for the lack of pictures, but between a new office space, new laptop and a misplaced cable, I can't get to my pics. Silly me!

Hello Acoustic Research, Ciao Sonor Audio

A previous post in November of 2020 left us in a bit of limbo, awaiting the arrival of a set of home-brewed Acoustic Research 3s from Gerrit or ?Gmaestro?, using modified cabinets with original drivers and crossovers, very nicely executed.
In a nutshell, these speakers sound really good, they kicked a set of Sonor Audio Sirius out the door, but living with them for an extended period of time has revealed certain shortcomings that I am sure if I wanted to, could be easily fixed as it mostly has to do with the sensitivity of the rotary selector that enables one to fine-tune the midrange response.  Oh, I did refinish these substantially built boxes, transforming them from semi-gloss black monoliths to something all the more cosmopolitan - matt-black baffle, real wood trim around the baffle edges exposed and oiled, with the remaining surfaces finished in a mid-blue/grey silk finish. Inspired by Focal's finishes on the Kanta range.

I wasn't looking to replace these boxes; as I indicated, they sound really good and could be made even better with a little fiddling.

Rise of the Horn

However, melomane forces conspired to bring something very special across my path.

Before I tell you what that something(s) is, let's look back at recent history of posts on this forum and a sudden interest in certain speaker design approaches that have been making waves in our little world.
Yes, thanks to Phase and Seanjammy, as well as Ingvar's history of designing and building some of these designs and sharing, we have this interest in horn designs and builds.  Sure, Agaton Sax's system has been around for a long time, but that solution is unobtanium to me, whilst the other builds seem more obtainable.
There is another local enthusiast who has been searching for timbral and tonal accuracy and whose writings I found on the TNT-Audio site quite a while ago - Chris Templer and his Coral-based horns using a single full-range driver.  I know of a couple of these sets using Tannoy, Altec and Goodmans drivers, not sure if all his builds are documented on that site.
On top of these local enthusiasts' posts, I had been reading about the adventures of Jeff Day, he of Jeff's Place now hosted on Positive Feedback, and his search for tonal accuracy - ?may the tone be with you? will be recognised by those who have read his well-written reports complimented by excellent photography.  Of particular interest is his hot-rodded Tannoy Westminster Royal, Altec VOTT, Altec Corona and Altec ?Stokowski? speakers.
Awesome stuff, many hours have been spent reading and dreaming about his systems and the well-documented modifications to crossovers, cables etc.
Yip, cables make a difference according to Jeff and his fellow Japanese hi-fi enthusiast, Yazaki-san; this in light of his epiphany related to the tone of electric guitars changing at a certain point in time, the change being directly related to the introduction of copper cabling.  For those of you who are interested in seeing his solution and revelations, you can search his site for Duelund cable.
Needless to say, I will be making up some new cables in the near future, but experimenting with cable that is available in good ole SA.  Helukabel's catalogue is quite a read and I am awaiting feedback from Helukabel re stock availability.
Let the flaming not begin.

Pioneer say hello to Sansui

Before the new speakers came into my life, I also managed to acquire an old Sansui AU-417 and TU-217 from Tony, 'thenoizeguy'.  The Sansui has since replaced my Pioneer SA-9800, the Pioneer having gone into a happy retirement home at chez Francois, in the company of other classic hi-fi collectables.  The Pioneer had been repaired a couple of times, but still has an underlying, intermittent problem that comes to the fore every now and again, this detracts from relaxed listening.  The design is massively complex and the electronics crammed into too tight a space, evidence of overheating is obvious on some of the boards under the chassis.  Plus, this beast has more power than I realistically need for the listening levels that I am used to, so I decided that retirement is a good option.  I get to see her every now and again, she looks happy amongst her peers.

The Sansui TU-217 and Pioneer TX-608 tuners are rotated in and out of service on a regular basis.

Even the Sansui AU-417 has too much power for my future listening needs, a flea-powered SET amp would do just fine, but I have this aversion to valves, too fiddly for my tastes.  However, I may still be lured by their sweetness in the future.
A day after writing the previous paragraph, I realise I may just have influenced the future with these thoughts...
In the meantime, the search is on for an old Sugden A21 mkII, as recommended by Francois, Mike and Malcolm.

No, I am not telling you what speakers have landed in my space.  Not yet, but I think you know where I'm headed...

Fare thee well Linn

I have also tried to listen to records on the Linn Axis on a number of occasions, but this medium leaves me with a feeling of lacking something, somewhat underwhelming, not sure what that something is, but I don't feel satisfied.  I think I have given up on that medium for now, but may choose to revisit it in the future.
Someone else can enjoy the Linn whilst I focus on other areas, specifically turning digital bits and bytes into enjoyable sound; not doable I hear some say and what others write, the medium is flawed etc etc, but heck, I won't know until I've given it a darn good try.

An Enquiry regarding Modern leads to Classic

This led to more reading and resulted in a phone call to Stefan at Air and my enquiring about a Holo Audio DAC to see if I could coax more out of the digital world, specifically using discrete R2R ladder and non-oversampling architecture.  Stefan listened to my likes and dislikes and after some more probing, delved into the early generations of CD players and DACs and advised me to have a listen to these devices as they may very well suit my tastes.
Well, I listened to his advice and obeyed.
Lots of reading led to Dutch Audioclassics and the old Lampizator websites, very interesting and informative.
Francois is contacted and asked if he is aware of a local Marantz CD7, apparently 'more scarce than hen's teeth' pours water on my enthusiasm, but he does know of a CD12 LE dual-box that might be for sale.  Confirmation comes back later, but at a cost of R25k.  Hmmm, at R25k it's a bit rich for my blood, not sure I want a TDA1541 DAC-based player that much, park that one for now as well.

Saul's brand makes its way into my world

Francois however does have a Marantz CD63 MkII Ken Ishiwata Edition available for me to listen to.  I do remember reading about modifications applied to these CD63s and that these mods taking them up a notch or 3 in the views of the modders.  I'm not always sure that the modders are looking for the same result that I am, or whether it's simply a quest to bring their hot-rodded equipment up to ?modern standards? (whatever the hell that may be).  So yes please, would love to listen to an unmolested player.
Visit studio Francois once again, good time to pay my respects to the retired lady.

The Marantz is hooked into the Sansui and listening ensues one Sunday evening, what I hear is liquid, but not for long as it becomes apparent that there is noise developing on the one channel, some basic troubleshooting indicates that the Marantz has a problem on the right channel.
Oh well, gives me the opportunity to bring the Audiolab 8200 back into the mix and listen to the same music back-to-back.  The Marantz is so much better to my ears, it just sounds more musical, I find my feet tapping easily, tapping maybe a little clich?d, but it is what it is; the Audiolab leaves me uninvolved.  Strange.
Problems not withstanding, I am on the right track.
The CD63 is returned and repaired by Francois, a dry solder joint on the RCA connector being the culprit and she is returned to service.
Dankie Francois!

Another Marantz

Not the end of this part of the journey just yet, as a recent response to a post on the forum regarding a Marantz CD12 LE by Stefan has led to a number of chats off the forum between Stefan and myself and a Marantz CD80; yip that one, the one with a TDA1541 Single Crown DAC finding its way into my world.  Can't wait to listen to this baby!
The above was written in the morning.  The CD80 arrived that same afternoon, personal delivery by Stefan as he was scheduled to be in the area.
Good meeting you Stefan and thank you!
Extensive Saturday evening listening ensued.  All I can say is ?Wow!?  Not quite up to the endurance standards set by Phase, but way more than I have managed to achieve in the recent past.  Still need to try a marathon session with the CD63.

Something New, yet Oldish

I guess if you are still reading at this point, it's because you want to know what speakers have made their way into my life.  Or maybe you just enjoy reading, even without customary pictures.  Moving swiftly on...

Enough of the waiting, let's go back in time, I wasn't even aware that these speakers I acquired had found their way out of their original birthplace.

I was at Francois' parlour one Saturday, just to say hello and touch base.  Latish that afternoon Francois and a couple of audio lovers make way to his ?new? vintage hifi display locale, yip, the classic's retirement home.  Entering into the room, I brush against the back of a large, shiny black box, but take no notice of what I just rubbed up against, too many other distractions in the form of neatly racked classic collectables catching the eyes.  Eventually my eyes wander back to the box and I walk across to go have a look.

Whoa Nelly!!

Now, I know that box from having ogled the pictures and reading about the build numerous times and the owner being very happy with the results of the box and driver combination.
It is finished in a lustrous black and has a light wood trim on the edges of the baffle, Jacaranda to be precise.  A single, large driver is mounted on the baffle.

Have you figured it out yet?

I'm sure that some of you have, if you have followed the horn scene and read about Chris Templer's exploits on the TNT-Audio site, first with Tannoy, then Goodmans and Altec full-range drivers housed in Coral-based horns.
Yip, a set of his non-monkey-coffins (his words, not mine) have crossed my path.
But which ones?
Interestingly, these appear to be the Tannoy cabinets as they have a cutout on the rear panel where the crossovers would have been, but have Goodmans Axiom drivers installed.  I'm guessing here, but Chris will know which cabinets these are.  No problem though, according to his original reports, the boxes were identical in size, the only difference would be the thickness of damping material behind the driver.
A quick enquiry and Francois says that if I want them, I can have them.  Christmas came early in 2021.
I tell him I will pick them up the following weekend.

Transporting these gigantic carcasses results in 2-trips, only one box at a time would fit into my car; much to the amusement of my wife.

Another factor is brought home after installing these beauties in their new resting place ? our ears need time to acclimatise to any radical shift in sound reproduction.  I can understand why these speakers would not do well in a quick demo, the way they reproduce sound is different from the AR 3s before them, almost as if there was a veiling.
However, once the ears got accustomed to listening, that veil disappears and the sound simply sucks you in; what an amazing pairing of horn and driver.  Chris Templer commissioned something very special here and I am privileged to have them in our home.
Thanks Chris!

The best reaction to these was when my daughter walked into the room and promptly said, ?These sound the best of all the speakers you have had.  Not the best looking, your refurbished Sonors look the best, but these sound the best by a long way.?
A while back my wife says to me, ?You are really enjoying these speakers, you're playing them just a little louder than any of the others.  I also like their sound.?  I feel vindicated by these comments coming from people who have to endure my music quest, guess I made the right decision.

Challenging my own Silly Beliefs

I also have to revisit old constrained beliefs, in my early years, I never believed that designs and technologies from the era of my grandfather and father would be able to cut the mustard in the current day and age.
Well, humble pie tastes good at times.

Jeff Day of Jeff's Place writing about vintage Altec 802d- and 804a-compression drivers: ?I mentioned this happy synergy result to Peter Qvortrup (Audio Note (UK)), and Peter said, "What is truly remarkable, Jeff, is the fact that you can take a pair of 50 ? 60 year old speakers and combine them with a currently made amplifier and CD player and get a result that probably beats 99% of the equipment made today, especially the speakers. If that is not an illustration of just how completely side tracked the industry has become by all manners of misconstrued ideas about what good sound really is, then I am not sure what is?"...?

As one of my all-time favourite hi-fi hacks Art Dudley (RIP) says of vintage speakers, ?...they are a choice we're not supposed to like.?

My ears have not been lying to me, there definitely is something gone awry over time.
Way too many variables to emphatically say this is right and that is wrong.  The world of hi-fi is grey, and I think that is how it should be.  My grey may tend towards black, whilst yours tends towards white and that is perfectly fine, after all, your ears aren't mine.

Regardless of what some may think or say, my path is being mapped out by classic and vintage hifi sound (read tone), enthusiasts and technologies...with a bit of modern tech tossed in to make it more challenging and rewarding.  How to make them coexist in a harmonious manner?  Now, that is the quest...

Toneward ho!

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