Monday, May 31, 2010

Dave's Guru....

He may say that JC was his first mentor, but I have found the truth.

On eBay is the amplifier on a cart true inspiration of Mr. Slagle. The text said it belongs to a 90 year old ham radio operator, so it clearly predates Dave's New York Noise work.

More Mercury...


just some blue love...

one I have never seen before....


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gentle Giants

Stop, turn back. Beastly creatures lie ahead.

Ssh, something in each cavern stirs. It breathes, but lightly, as it
sips on a hundred copper straws. It drips, and whispers,

In magnet, wood and wire, we were thus imprisoned, limbs forgetful and
forgotten, bound inside this ancient transportation machine.

Little Victories.....


I have been battling two NEC laptops and then a really nice Dell mini for weeks now. But look what magically happened last night:

Notice this is from two different measurement programs - and they actually agree... ahh... so Dave Cigna, the laws of physics enforcer, comes through again.. in a big way... thanks...


The one hundred pound horns... clamped to quick stand.. aided by last minute additions of lead shot, 25 pound Lowther motor, play sand, and most importantly, blue strap/milk crate combo.. did _NOT_ fall over when thrown on top of never before seen basshorn when Black Sabbath was playing at 100+dB....


The combination of coming out of winter and still having not much more than root vegetables for local food and the gorgeous, but still very green tomatoes in my garden is killing me. I can't wait for fresh veggies... but I got a really nice surprise upon my return - ripe mulberries. There are few things better than fresh organics fruits for free in your own back yard. Plus, I hear they are hallucinogenic. That might help with some of my speaker "visions"...

Monday, May 24, 2010

First Impressions of a Junkie

Women have a wonderful way of looking a man over as he enters a room. They go for his eyes, his shoes, his hair and his posture. I’ve seen this informal introduction before set the bar for dismissal or approval. By remaining un-shaven I’m often dismissed. I possess a rough-cut demeanor that remains intentional. I clean up well but the women I shadow like the folly of an unknown. We share a common spirit. She gains my attention by seeking a rebel and I remain engaged, strong willed but easy-going. She must understand my analytical no-nonsense character. She understands my condition – myEMIA. She is audio; I am her audiophile.

Billie Holiday
-Billie Holiday

We meet at Lone Star Audio Fest. I’ve pledged allegiance to the show’s DIY emotion. In fact this is my second show in three years. She was among the exhibitors when we first met. I was browsing for literature while taking note of the creative innovators with an undying passion for music. Unlike the immediate access exhibitors she sat in the back of her exhibit glowing. Dave the curator of the room handed me a business card and stamped the back with Jeffery’s info. They are a joint outfit comprised of Experience Music and Intact Audio. I had inquired about the girl in the other room but Dave was off to the next visitor.

Experience Audio Amp
-Experience Audio Amp

I entered where she sat. Taking notice of her peripherals, apple bottom base, blue belt and sweet tweets. I remembered her face. She was strong willed and rough cut. I had read of her before when she visited Oswald's Mill in 2007. Mercury vapor was in the air as a guy asked me to play some music. His name was John. I could have listened to anything he pulled. He nudged; "Pick anything you like!" I looked over my shoulder at the girl glancing at me. She was 6’9 and mahogany fine. I pulled some Blues & Roots to see if she could get down. She seemed a little heavy weight and I like my audio nimble.

The Girl was Mahogany Fine
-the Girl aka "Mahogany Fine"

She in turn looked me over for quick approval. I had arrived from work so this time I was presentable. Her lineup was outstanding handcrafted, rare, and original to say the least. Her creators had birthed genius with the likes of Frank Schroder at the table. I was in good company. John did not mind my music selection so we had a "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting" as she began to bless the people.

Frank's Turntable Design & Arm
-one fine arm and table

She through Charles Mingus into the room along with the others and placed him behind the bass. In a collective and organized fashion the room was now a sanctuary. John, I & the visitors sat down for some church. After the gospel session Dave, Jeffery, John, I & the visitors she'd influenced went to diner. We chatted about music and audio with passion. We attempted to redefine patents and revive audiophiles. I spent the next two days visiting the guys in her room. What I remember most was their rough-cut presentation. They looked like junkies; they looked like me!

Dave Slagle & Jeffery Jackson
-creative innovators Dave Slagle & Jeffery Jackson

The EMIA Room: First Impressions of a Junkie
-by the junkie at
Lone Star Audio Fest 2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010

It's a small world.

While hanging out at the LSAF a group of us were just chatting and at some point Brenda mentions where she grew up / used to live in the Dallas area. Within 30 seconds Innerurban had a picture of her living room on his iPhone. Needless to say, the next words out of her mouth were something like 'How the $%&* did you get a picture of my living room?' No google earth hasn't gotten that sneaky, it just so happens that he now lives in the very same place where she grew up.

That one is tough to top, but two other odd connections were made in the last week inside the much smaller world of audio. Remeber those WE horns that Silabtone showed in Munich?

I mentioned the setup to our friend Ijaz and he said I had a pair of those at one point and suspected they were once his. A little checking and indeed that seems to be the case. He found them in Pakistan and had them shipped to DC. Later he sold them to a dealer on the west coast who then sent them to Korea. They completely circled the globe when they ended up in Munich with Frank and Sean showing their table in the same room. Full closure of the audio circle comes with the fact that Ijaz was one of the first people in the states to get one of Frank's arms and the first time I really got to chat with Frank was at Ijaz's house.

Ijaz met Frank through the Loricraft guys and one of their plinths close the next circle of friends. At one point, Ijaz had a woodworker do a slight modification to his Loricraft plinth. He subsequently had Gary Gill sell it on ebay. As it turns out, a picture of that very plinth shows up at one of the ETF events.

The new owner is a close associate and reputed member of the Munich Triode Mafia of which Jeffrey and I have close personal ties. You can't make this kind of stuff up kids.

Show impressions.

I attended the Lone Star Audio Fest and had a great time. I enjoyed hanging out with a local Texas crowd for a weekend. They were all very friendly and interesting. We had dinner together, talked audio, and listened to some wonderful systems. The first room I listened to was the Experience Music room. Jeffrey Jackson and Dave Slagle put this rig together. It was one of the best systems, if not the best system, I have ever heard. The sound was effortless even during dynamic passages. Stringed instruments sounded very natural and nuanced, even in big orchestral works. I bought a choral piece of music while I was at the show. When I played the choral piece, I was stunned by the air around the individual voices and the imaging that was present. It was like I was actually in a cathedral listening to the people sing.

Other people were also impressed with this system as well. I talked with two men who came back to the room at least four different times (I was helping out in this room while Dave and Jeffrey talked shop). One of these men said that he had heard a Shindo system. He said the Experience Music system blew it away. Several people brought their own LPs and played them on this system. They played rock, jazz and country music. The system played each type of music with ease and grace. After listening to their music, most of them commented that they had never heard their LPs sound this good.

I’m not sure what component made the biggest contribution to this beautiful system so I listed the components below.

Cartridge MiyabeTonearm Schroder / Aretmis SA-1
Table Schroder / Artemis TA-1
SUT Experience Music / Intact Audio 1:52 for the Miyabe
Phono Experience Music 7K LCR using the 7788 as a pentode to drive the LCR to a 56 with permalloy output transformers.
Linestage Experience Music 71A
Bent Audio Inductive Controls (inside the 71A linestage)
Crossover Intact Audio Inductive Prototype
Bass Amp Jim Rivers modded Heath W3M
Bass Horn BassMaxx B-ZerosAmp Experience Music 50SET German DHT driver directly coupled to a 50 with nickel OT's
Horn Eleven Horns 160hz solid wood
Driver Lowther America Field coil
Cabling Tel-Wire

I also had a chance to spend some time in Bob Spence’s Affirm Audio room. He had a pair of single-driver speakers that sounded wonderful. Because there was only one speaker in each cabinet, the sound was very coherent and focused. The speakers were field coils with an adjustable field current. Bob demonstrated how the sound could be changed by varying the current applied to the field coils. He had a power supply that provided current to the field coils. He varied the current from approximately 1 amp to 2 amps. At 1 amp of current, the system sound very warm and lush. At 2 amps, the system sounded more analytical and detailed. My favorite spot was at 1.25 amps. At this setting the system was nuanced without sounding hard or edgy. It had an organic quality to it that drew me in. All in all, it was an excellent system.

The Speakers were the Field coil prototypes of the Alpair 12's and the cabinets were the Mark Audio Pencil 12's.
The turntable was a SP-10 MkII in a custom panzerholz & basswod plinth from Porterhouse Audio. The phono-cartridge was Dynavector on a SME 12" arm. The phono-preamp was a modified Artemis Labs PH1. Bent autoformers were used for volume control and the amplifier was an Art Audio Carissa 845. The cables and power conditioning were done by Clarity Cable.


all photos courtesy of Clay Grier

Thursday, May 20, 2010

LSAF reports.

If any of you who attended the show want to put up a post about what you saw or heard (in any room), drop me an email and i'll get you temporary access. We do want to personally thank everyone involved and it truly was a great time. We added a few members to the family in the form of the "kids" and "innerurban".

The "Kids" are Jason and Stormy of FS3. They were doing some really cool built by hand proto long throw 7" bass drivers for car subs. "innerurban" became family over the three days through helping us spin vinyl, run, and break down the room and by supplying the bottle of anejo tequilla we killed while eating dirty thai. Just one look at his blog lets you know he is a junkie like us.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Karma... or.. you gotta hook a brother up!

I had these old bass cabs - basically overgrown A7's - that I dragged to Texas thinking some DIY'er would snatch them up and I'd cover my gas money. I was wrong. Apparently small drivers rule in Texas. Well, to be fair, there were some large drivers, but they were on boards the size I use for building amps...

sorta like these that I loaned to all-around good guy Duke LeJeune. The poor guy had planned on running a tube amp from Richard Gray. Richard had some issues and could not make it. Duke sounded genuinely bummed, so I offered him a breadboard that I had thrown in last minute. I told him what it looked like, and, to his credit, he got even more excited. He loved the sound, and brother number one was hooked up.

Brother number two is vintage hifi blogger Iain.. super cool blog about vintage gear and he is always remarking that bigger is better, so I stopped in on the way back through Little Rock and gave him the bass cabinets. He was so excited that he negotiated some "pretty big mercury rectifiers that his friend acquired" for me..

That "medium sized" tube next the mercuries is a western 354 - a GIANT tube to anyone I know. He gave me enough of these to build a stacked supply direct coupled 250Tl driving a 2000T! So that makes me brother number three... and closes my Karma circle.

(so to brother scott in AZ: you did me a solid... it is coming back to you soon)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Home again, home again jibbity-jab

This is a picture I took outside LaGuardia airport of one of my two allowed carry on items on my flight from Dallas To NY after the LSAF. I'll save the actual show stuff for Guest Bloggers and may put up some random stuff later in the week but for now I'll center on my Clockwork Orange, oops I mean Code Orange travel experiences with vintage electronics.

Given the 50 pound limit for a checked bag before you hit an additional $50 surcharge I spent much of the week before the show sending flat rate boxes down to bob spence of affirm audio. For the actual stuff I had to huff with me I tried like hell to get the odd stuff in the checked baggage and carry on 50 pounds or so in my allotted carry-on space. In the end of it I needed to pay for checked bags twice and go through security screening 3 times.

The first experience was at LaGuardia at 5:30am last Thursday. My Carry-on bag was at 51.5 pounds and I politely asked if I needed to remove a thing or two to avoid $70 to check it rather than $20. The counter person was cool took my $20 and gave me a receipt and I was off to security. At security I thought my bag would fly through like it normally did and get the swab for explosive stuff at worst. Well something in the X-ray alarmed them and I was pulled aside for a "further search" As they dug through the bag pulling out Albums, boxes of cartridges, a tonearm and such, they kept digging. They actually found two zippered pockets in my laptop bag that I didn't know existed. Obviously they were looking for something and the minute they found my digital caliper all was well. Apparently that was the thing that alarmed them on the X-ray and once identified for what it was I was on my way to Milwaukee.

Since I'm from Milwaukee and it serves as a nice little hub to places like Denver, Vegas and Dallas, I try to schedule a long layover so I can spend a few hours with mom at a casino local to the airport. Vegas etiquette doesn't allow me to discuss what happened at the casino but I can say a last minute turn of fate kept my shirt on my back and I was headed back to the airport caliper in bag to menace another code orange screening situation.

This time I was also flagged and I simply assumed it was the caliper again. The guy at the second screening point asked me if there was anything dangerous in the bag and I quickly pointed out there was a caliper that caused alarm at LaGuardia. I was allowed to pull it out for him and he seemed uninterested. He neatly unpacked everything into those gray bins and opened the 12X12 record mailer and saw the albums. As he sifted through them and saw Sean's "walk on the wild side" he commented he just listened to it yesterday. It must have been some sort of _guilt thing when saw the Archive Production Gregorian Chants below which immediately had him grabbing a swab to check for explosives. Long story short... The swab test failed for "forbidden substances" and next my palms were being swabbed and my bag was completely unpacked into about 5 trays for another run through the X-ray. Everyone was polite and I made it to my flight with plenty of time. I was amused by the whole process and it still gives me a good chuckle.

After spending the time in Dallas at some foolish event, I had to repeat the process in the other direction and upon arriving at the airport at 5:30 hoping to standby a 6:25 flight I had the reverse experience of my New York Departure. I went in humbly and said I had two issues, the standby wasn't a problem but the 50+ pounds I had in my bag was. Essentially I needed to lose 7 pounds and the easiest way to do this was to pull out one of the GenRad supplies and take it as my second carry-on. Since my messenger bad was overloaded I had to carry it exposed and worried about a screening but there didn't seem to be any worry when I showed what I was swapping from my checked bag to exposed carry-on. I flew through the Dallas security unscathed and 40 minutes later I was happily sleeping on my way to Atlanta with the GenRad sitting in the bin above. (later realized that after I got the bag down to 50 pounds, they forgot to charge me the $15 for a checked bag.)

Upon arriving in Atlanta, I slowly wandered about Hartsdale for a bit and found a nice warm window to prop against and sleep for a few more hours prior to my flight back to NY. The GenRad as pillow drew a few stares but no issues. Upon boarding my flight, while walking down the jetway I was approached and asked what it was I was carrying. I explained a bit and all was fine. Upon meeting a hostess at the entrance of the airliner another round of questioning came. She insisted the captain needs to approve this and with a backed up jetway allow further people to board, I attempted to move into the galley and wait for the captain so others could pass. I was instructed to stay where I was. I complied and as passengers behind me became angry at the backup I was instructed to hand the supply to the pilot in the cockpit and the only way to do that was to pass into the forbidden zone with my possibly forbidden item. (and not being asked if I like Gladiator Movies) I was cleared and on my way home.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dirty Hill Country Blues....

Ironic that someone like me, who grew up in the heart of Delta Blues.. riding my bicycle up and down highway 61 on a near daily basis.. playing in the very waters that gave Muddy Waters his name... should fall for dirty north mississippi hill country blues, but I have. This is Junior's Juke Joint. It is now gone. It was just miles from me at the time, but I was into other things. I never went, though some very good friends did invite me. doh!

So the reason for this post: the new Black Keys album is streaming on NPR for a few more days. So far it is not as raunchy as the some of their earliest work, but that perspective is still there... and I love that mid-fi sound... it is crazy to hear the soul of Junior Kimbrough pouring forth from these two guys from Ohio...

This will be the soundtrack for my last ditch soldering effort and then packing the trailer for Texas...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

DIY'ers Save Lives....

So dave says we should do this Dallas show. That it will be good for EMIA. (It will). I agree when he says we will do it low key and simple. Yet somehow I am bringing 38" diameter horns that weigh nearly what I do... several amps of the same weight.. two or three phono stages.. a couple of line stages... spare tubes.. tools... toys.. and on and on.. and HE is getting on a plane with a single bag... hmmm.. next show in New York anyone?

Eventually I realize that these hundred pound mahogany horns are not going to support themselves. Not even the field coil lowthers are enough rear ballast for these monsters. Hmmm.... What to do? I know, wait until the last minute and then go begging for help. Thank goodness I helped Doug build a 2A3 amp a few years ago. Local DIY'er to the rescue! I have welded a bit in my day, but I will say that I am not any good at it. OK, make that horrible at it, but Doug....

So here they are. Metal is so cool. At 8a.m. these were three eight foot rods. At noon they were a bunch of chopped up pieces. By 8pm they were two solid chunks of steel... too cool...

I didn't clean them up as much as Doug probably wanted me to, but I really like the way they look. Thanks, man.. you are a a life-saver... dave owes you one!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The first reports from Munich are coming in....

and it looks like the boys had a good show! When Joe told me they were bringing an original WE mirrophonic speaker setup I just shook my head in disbelief. When JC designed an amp using a 437 input, 252 driver and 284 output tubes, again my head shook in disbelief at the insanity. When I see this picture in the first show coverage I was laughing so hard I nearly wet myself.

I also found a youtube video of some show coverage and the Silbatone stuff is at about 2:39 Seeing this guys response upon entering the room had me laughing so hard tears came to my eyes.

Congrats to Mr. Chung, Mr Oh, J_Rob, JC, Frank and Sean on what had to be the coolest room there. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the show coverage and see you all next week in Dallas :-)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

But does it have an "ute" button.

It seems that a number of the followers SO's (and the ever so manly Johnny) are requesting more bunny posts. Got a box in the mail from John Chapman of some modules and inside were two brand spanking new "bunny-proof" remotes. These are much nicer than the previous ones he was using and even better yet is he has naked boards so we can make up a wood version if we so desire. Alas the wood version would tempt the bunny and yellow dog equally so I'll stick with the units John sends.My only question is where the heck us the "ute" button that is clearly marked on my previous unit? I am lost without it, there are so many occasions when i feel the music just needs to be "uted" a bit and it may take me weeks to tweak things so I can live without the "ute" feature. In any event here is a pic of the remote it replaced and again kudos to John for some great work.

Van Halen's GM70...

So earlier we discussed how Jon finally picked an output tube (link here). I need to call him out on his basement. It is full of audio and woodworking stuff. He didn't want me to see it at first, as it is a little bit incriminating. But now that he has seen my collection/pile of stuff, he is more open to letting me wander through. Apparently every schematic that we have drawn up together over more than a decade has companion parts in his basement. We started off with 2A3's.. then 45's... PX25's.. settled on GM70's now that he is doing open baffles and could use the juice. And there is also iron... rows of Mikey iron... and a growing stack of Slagle iron... I won't even begin with the raw drivers down there..

So above is the rough scheme we settled on. He provided the output iron (big nickel) and the tubes. I made him buy a pair of nickel 1:1's. But we hit a snag. The driver was to be the Emission Labs 20. It can swing big volts and he has had a pair on his shelf for years (see above about his basement). I built for that tube, but when I hit the B+ the measurements weren't working out. The EML20's were weak and super weak.. ouch! So I noticed that I could drop an 801A in without changing a single part (probably should have caught that from the outset - blush)... much better.. well within a dB from 20 to 20k...

So here she is up and running. Too early to really tell, but man, not a bad combo... BIG sound.... use triodes in their linear range and you just about can't go wrong. Jon is building a full coverage chassis for these. They need it. Too much iron and oil cap showing. I like that stuff, but I know I am in the short line. It also has too much glow. We need to tame it down with a screen....

I am not sure how much tweaking I will do before Lone Star Audio Fest, but so far, just spinning vinyl is making it sound better by the hour... (Coleman Hawkins just morphed into REM "Life's Rich Pageant" - must be about noon... )


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Le Cheap Phono.

JJ and I have been talking back and fourth about doing a tricked out "cheap" phono stage and we both plan on showing our versions at the LSAF. The initial goal was to fix everything that is so wrong about the RCA circuit and then do a simple circuit board and parts list so Joe DIY'er could have an affordable and great sounding phono stage. Our intent is to simply publish the info and offer initial support through a forum and then step back and see where it goes. The circuit is really simple, direct coupled and has no series elements. (plate of the pentode connects directly to the grid of the output tube. Gain is about 40dB and the pentode input makes it ripe for a SUT.

Prior to doing the board version, we each had to build and listen to these things. Jeffrey being the formally trained purist (pragmatist) decided to source everything from allied (except the tubes) so the end builder can simply fax or email in an order sheet. While this was necessary, I tried to take the other approach and wanted to build my version entirely with stuff in my junkbox. What fun would it be to listen to two of the same things anyways. Our goal is a final format that is easy and cheap for the end user to build and ripe for upgrades.

Here is my version in all of it's glory :-)

ok... I have to admit that I really cheated and the pic above is just the signal stuff. For the PS I stole a trick from Arthur and simply used a pair of Genrad supplies I had on hand. The input tubes are powered by a 1201 which is regulated and the output tube is powered by a linear 1203. Unfortunately upon looking inside the 1203 I was disdained by the ancient dual section cap and 170 ohm decoupling resistor. A few swipes of the soldering wand and a couple of THSA's and an 80% nickel PS choke were under the hood.
To come totally clean, while I did have the THSA's, 80% nickel chokes and 15 foot 4 pin connectors in my parts bin from failed projects, I did have to order a few resistors and scam some .32uf oil caps off ebay so you can now all call me a dirty cheater. To be honest, I think the oil caps may be a bit much and do have some off the shelf plastic caps to swap them out with at the show.
I hope my copious use of Kimber TCSS and 3D layout will prove to y'all that I am not a slacker and intend to wipe the street with this bad boy and my last task is figuring how to fit some wheels to it to keep my traditional style going.

As a final note (apologies for the preaching), I really think the concept of LSAF is genuine and pure since unlike all of the other shows, it is motivated by passion and not $$$. I think you should all think about the possibility of bringing a show like this to a neighborhood near you.

One more flooding picture...

just snapped this with my phone.. on the way back from morning carpool...

Yes, this was solid ground a week ago. Even though it is flowing like the Wolf normally flows, this is actually just low land area at least one hundred yards (100 meters) from the river channel. I took this picture standing maybe five feet from the road.

Mother Nature rules.... don't mess with her....


Sunday, May 2, 2010

well... I said I wouldn't get into this...

but it came to me...

I think everyone in this group at least tries. We try to get good information. We try to make positive changes. For my part, I try to buy items that will last. I try to buy it from a local vendor, or even better, a local manufacturer. With audio, it is rare to score anything locally, which is sad. But as a family, we don't eat fast food or eat out at all (rare exception is a pizza). As we drink primarily water, we don't drink from plastic bottles with the exception of milk and orange juice. We buy maybe a case of cola a year. We recycle. But does that mean much? I am not so sure.

As you might have heard on the news, Memphis had two straight days of violent weather. The sirens went off perhaps eight times over the weekend... days.. nights.. constantly... As a survivor of a direct tornado hit on my home as a child, I have respect for these sirens. These storms came with *lots* of rain, luckily. Rain diminishes their power. After watching a car take the turn in front of our house and having the water flow over their hood, we wanted to see how our neighborhood was draining. So during a short break between storms on Saturday, my eight-year-old and I went on a hike to go see how the runoff was affecting the river. What we found was astonishing to me.

What was cruising down the Wolf River (which will be in the Gulf of Mexico in a matter of a few short days) was at least one part trash to one part sticks or limbs. This made me very sad. JP as well. We go hiking here often. To think that we are screaming about supporting industry in third world nations that have terrible pollution control when we cannot even educate Americans how to get trash to a trash can, much less a recycle bin, was disheartening.

Part two of this was me spending an hour or two trying to repair our third printer this year. It was poorly designed with a power cord inlet that had no strain relief to a very thin circuit board. It was designed for perhaps ten plug in cycles. I spent my hour repairing it because I could. Most people cannot repair this, and none of us should have to. In the end, the power now comes on perfectly, but the rollers are warped. I will have to go by another plastic monster tomorrow. Does anyone make a ten year printer? I tried to buy quality with this one. I tried...

This last picture gives me hope. Nature has always found a way. This new "way" may not include us, but that is fine by me. Check out this snake. He is happily resting on our floating trash. And, yes, we watched our step much more carefully after seeing this little fellow...