Building high-end 'tables cheap at Home Despot II

“For those who want the moon but can't afford it or those who can afford it but like to have fun and work with their hands, I'm willing to give out a recipe for a true high-end 'table which is easy to do, and fun to make as sky's the limit on design/creativity! The cost of materials, including 'table, is roughly $200 (depending, more or less), and add to that a Rega tonearm. The results are astonishing. I'll even tell/show you how to make chipboard look like marble and fool and impress all your friends. If there's interest I'll get on with this project, if not, I'll just continue making them in my basement. The next one I make will have a Corian top and have a zebra stripe pattern! Fun! Any takers?”

The Lead in “Da Thread” as posted by Johnnantais - 2-01-04

Let the saga continue. Sail on, oh ships of Lenco!
Hi all, for those who did track down certain vintage Sony pieces on my recommendations and reports, good news: I received my now perfectly-silent Sony 2000F back from the technician (who again stayed for some tunes via the Giant Direct Coupled Glass-Reinforced Lenco), and we immediately hooked it up in the system. Well, damned if the Sony, in terms of resolution, didn't match the two CJs and the EAR 834P. It comes with a very flexible phono stage (in fact, two!) with various settings for both LOMCs and MMs. It has drive, tons of PRaT and and an organic cohesiveness (ALL vintage Sony electronics from 1966-1976 have this: they were targetting McIntosh and Marantz at that time, and did a great job of emulating tubes via SS), and in strict audiophile terms beats out the legendary Dolan (which I owned and sold on after receiving the two CJs), except, like tube amps, in the bass. In my system as configured now, it is still edged out in terms of magic and dynamics by the three tubed preamps, but I'll set it up with a vintage Sony amp and see how it works out there. REALLY looking forward to this :-), the vintage Sony pieces are a hoot (and beautifully-built). Look for the TAE-5450 pre, the TAE-8450 (the top), the Sony 2000F, 1120 and 1130 integrateds (heavy-duty!), the 31XX series of amps and so on, including the V-fet series Sony developed (now currently adopted by Spectral), to demonstrate how serious they were back then.

Yet another CD man came by, this time far more audiophile-oriented (a HUGE stack and vintage and current classic high-end gear), who had given up on vinyl and embraced The Remote, out of curiosity at increasing reports of the Lenco POWER, something even the Lenco's "opponents" (besotted with belt-drive, the inertia of the long-dominating belt-drive Dogma and the lure of Status/recognizeable names/price tags and the support of the Audio Police [Stereophile, TAS, etc.]) grant the Lenco. Well, the first thing which struck me, both Digital visitors taken together, is how both immediately and readily admitted the Lenco's superiority to digital in terms of dynamics!! Now this is EXTREMELY important as, the ongoing/never-ending debate in the battle between analog-ers and the digital crowd is which system is in actuality de facto more dynamic. The reason this debate is ongoing is because both belt-drives and DDs lose out in dynamics against idler-wheel drives, and so in actual auditioning/comparisons, vinyl vs digital shootouts, the issue is not settled or clear. But, with the Lenco, the issue is clear, and devoted digitizers admit this within the first two minutes of exposure to the Lenco. The dynamics are more readily heard also because the Lenco is so refined, so precise, which allows the dynamic speed (the isntantaneous dynamic explosions) to be clearly heard (and not muddied by grain and various distortions). Also because, I believe, the Lencos in particular approach the speed stability of digital media (their sole advantage in my book over analogue, as the lasers do not affect speed stability one whit, leaving it entirely to the motor/transport, effectively operating in vacuum) more closely than any other 'table.

In the Shootout between the Lenco and the SME 30, the owner of the SME declared all Lenco superiority - which included dynamics and a sense of 3D palpability - a colouration. But I believe the dynamics are in the record/pressing/recording, as I also fail to understand how a slab of metal Direct Coupled to a large inert mass (Russian birch-ply/MDF) can create dynamics out of thin air. I mean we're talking as inert as a bag of sand, but without a bag of sand's killing of dynamics, which is why I favour the birch-ply/MDF recipe, which is also tonally spot-on and neutral (but, as in everything else, there are varying levels of success in perfecting this recipe, clamping and the quality of the materials have their effect, as well as implementation).

I live next to a musician and am occasionally invited to jam sessions (where beer is an important element ;-)), and get to hear live singing and playing in his living room. Those voices have no dynamic limits (this depends on the strength of the singer's voice), and likewise, on the Lenco, vocals strike the listener - perhaps more than anything else - with their limitless lack of dynamic ceiling on outbursts (and every instrument as well). In fact, the musician is so smitten with the sound of the Lenco/system he has asked me to host his jam group and entourage today to come hear for themselves. This after one of the songs they played last night: an incredible duet/stereo rendition last night, the two playing David Bowie's Space Oddity, one of the great musical experiences of my life. After THIS, which I was privileged to hear, the neighbour brought up my record players, and asked to bring them over. And to emphasize the point some more, he has no experience of audiophile equipment. We are talking SERIOUS performance for the Lenco, which also gets the music/magic right, unlike any other source I have ever heard, sounding SO close to the real thing (depending on accompanying equipment). I believe that, under the spell of the idea of "neutrality", which is actually a gross colouration (a coldness and analytical quality which is the stripping away of "flow", gestalt, organic and harmonic unity, which digital media embodies perfectly, but which certain DDs and high-mass belt-drives emulate with some success), many audiophiles embrace this artificial sound over and against something which does a good approximation of live music.

Which brings me to the two CJ preamps: they both (the PV-7 to a greater degree) somehow make ALL recordings come across as live. That includes studio recordings. I don't know what's going on, whether or not the CJ pres are adding something or retrieving, but I confess I LOVE it, as it makes my entire collection far more rivetting and involving, and makes understanding of each musical piece far easier to achieve. As with the Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams LP which until I heard it the other day I had never understood/appreciated as the masterpiece it is (and so many others!). The liveness comes also from the easy retrieval of the air and resonances in the studios (!), as well as both CJs' ability to cast 3D images, and so give the impression the musicians are in the room, live recording or not. And NEVER have I heard live recordings SO live! Of course, these experiences wouldn't be possible without the Mighty Lenco ;-).

Anyway Mike, good luck in your phono experiments, this is enough for now though there;'s so much more to talk about (the reinsertion of the rebuilt Leak Stereo Twenty, the incredible abilities of the Technics' SB/Studio Series of loudspeakers, and so on). I'll be sending in my PV-7 for an overhaul, and getting into the Tube Game, sigh, ANOTHER obsession ;-). Have fun with your obsessions all, as I first wrote nigh-on four years ago now and have continued to write, to some ad nauseum ;-), Vive la Lenco, Vive la Idler Wheel!
If you love the PV7 so much - why not send the PV8 for the overhaul and then compare? I have had vintage gear sound completely different after replacing a few parts.

Are you saying that Spectral will fix the Sony V-fet components?

I agree there is nothing like real music to break the spell of most hi-fi gear. Have you ever noticed how loud real instruments can be, yet they dont seem hurt your ears?

Hi Mike, sorry for the delay, sill moving and adjusting. No, Spectral has embraced the V-fet in their latest designs, (Yamaha had also, and their V-fet designs, B-1 and A-1 I believe, were considered the best they ever made), but won't fix Sony designs. Though perhaps their V-fets are acceptable substitutes for vintage Sony pieces, if you can get them to part with some. However, in my experience I haven't ever come across blown V-fets.

As to the PV-7, my heart is more with the PV-7 than with the PV-8, and since it has weak bass, I figure this is due to a tired power supply, though it may be some new AT-7s might fix this. Though I'm really nervous about changing the PV-7's sound, I'll make sure everything is "by the book" in the rebuild. Still tube-rolling over here in the meantime :-). I'll eventually overhaul the PV-8 too.

I've now brought over my collection of vintage speakers (excepting the Klipsch Cornwalls for which I'll have to rent a truck) and today I'll have a big shootout to see which get to stay in the soundroom and which will be put in the basement: Klipch Heresy MKIs, Spendpor BC-1s, ESS AMT4s, and of course the Technics SB-4s which are currently giving me such enjoyment. For those wondering why I have so many vintage speakers, and no current ones, it's because all current ones I've tested have so far have had their asses kicked by these vintage designs :-)!! The ESS AMT4s have those fabulous Heil Air Motion Transformers midrange/high-frequency elements (said to be the best overall driver ever developed), the woofers in these particular ones are as fast as the AMT elements, are very sensitive (thus giving free rein to the Lenco mighty dynamics and transient speed) and the cabinets are as heavy and dead as cement; the Klipsch have incredible speed and detail-retrieval, are very sensitive and work well with SS as well as with low-powered tube amps and work well in small rooms; and the Spendors speak for themselves, have an incredible seductive midrange, excellent PRaT and gestalt/unity/harmony (another set of Lenco/Idler strengths) and with the right amp (Pierre's 100-watt SS amp which still sounds like an ultra-powerful SET) slamming fast and accurate bass as well, though they won't go particularly loud before bottoming out (due to the Lencos almost-excessive speed and slam in the bass) so for refinement and smaller rooms.

As for realistic dynamic swings not hurting ears (hardening of the upper midrange/aggressive treble), I've found that both the Leak and the Pierre amps accomplish this feat when accompanied by warmed-up CJs, which is one reason I'm so in love with the Technics SB-4s (as well as my next-door musician neighbour)! I'm hoping it's due to the CJ's, I'll find out today/tomorrow in my own personal Shootout (what fun!!). Let me know how the 5751 works out in the EAR when you get around to it Mike.

I'm building shelving in the basement for my large collection of vintage hi-fi, and for my large collection of record players (which is soon to include a Linn LP12/Ittok combo, I want to delve into its PRaT abilities). Soon as my soundroom/collection is organized, I'll start inviting various serious audiophiles over (already started) to experience what carefully-chosen vintage pieces can do, ESPECIALLY when backed up by large idler-wheel drives!! Have fun all!
"The ESS AMT4s have those fabulous Heil Air Motion Transformers midrange/high-frequency elements (said to be the best overall driver ever developed)..."

Who said that? I remember those drivers quite well. Heard them with a wide variety of ss and tube amplifiers back in their day. I always thought they had an annoying plastic-y coloration that was really grating over time. Plus, as I recall there was a very discernible disassociation between the Heil unit and the woofer in the AMT4. They couldn't hold a candle to a good ESL, in my opinion. I don't mean to sound so aggressive, but I'm just wondering. I don't doubt the sincerity of your opinion. Maybe with certain specific electronics, their coloration is ameliorated.
Hi Lew, just taking a break from building shelving and thought I'd take a look. From the grapevine I've heard in fact the precise opposite concerning the AMT4's (these are the "smallest" stand-mounters) woofer/tweeter integration, and this is how I hear it (it's the larger AMT1s which had the integration problem). Several well-heeled audiophiles visiting my various soundrooms have always been wowed by these specific speakers again and again, as opposed to the rest of the list which leaves them less impressed all taken in all, as the ESS garner universal/unanimous approval, while the rest get raves from some and not from others, more of a mixed bag of reactions. A simple Googling reveals many fans still of these speakers, who won't let them go for anything, even while owning highly-regarded current designs. Evidently synergies exist.

Things have changed over the years with respect to cabling (I use a mix of Petras for interconnects and solid-core for speaker wire, both very smooth and aggression-free), and set-up (specialized metal stands which I use with my AMT4s, Tiptoes and so on), which might account for the lack of annoying colourations, and their existence back when. Of course, some amps excite the tweeters more than others, as with all speakers, so I go with what works, again as with all speakers.

The Heils and various spin-offs are currently being used in a rather large variety of pricey high-end speakers still today (especially in Europe), and their specs are magnificent: a 97-db efficient driver capable of taking up to 300 watts without distortion and with a frequency range going from a typical 1200 hz (sometimes as low as 800) up into the stratosphere. The trick is implementation, as always. As always with most things, YMMV.

That said, I prefer a variety of other speakers as far as PRaT/musicality goes, which is why the AMT's don't simply stay in the system, perhaps there is a dissociation between the tweeters and woofers being revealed here. But, I've never replaced the elements in the crossover, they sound so good, we'll what happens when I do. Others are not so sensitive to PRaT/timing issues, which explains the more ambivalent reactions re. the other speakers on my list, who prefer the smooth raw detail/information and beautiful string sounds of the AMTs (no other speaker in my experience plays guitar playing like the Heils, for string fans). I do prefer the vintage Sony amps for the Heils, or the Pierre Amp which is ultra-smooth/velvety, which are both tubey-sounding. The Heils are ultra-revealing of any hardness or brightness in an amp, or wiring. Tubes and the Heils don't mix so well, as then there is a glassy colouration, so far in my experience, though I'll try the Leak again with the Heils at some point.

So far, the Technics SB-4s (!!) are leading the charge, the Spendors go downstairs, the ESS go up next, I'll report on this between shelf-building.