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Formal Living Room Phono System - Jan. 2011

Like some of you, I grew up listening to phonograph albums during the 70's and early 80's.  This was also the period I call the golden age of audio.  Numerous manufacturers were putting out new and interesting models every year. Equipment was made of aluminum, steel, wood and glass often with solid machined aluminum knobs and engraved faceplates.   Industrial design was a priority, not dictated by some marketing price point.  The gear looked as good as it sounded.   This was the decade of the fabulous monster receiver power wars.   There were at least eight audio magazines published monthly.  It was a fun time for sure.  You bought albums to get the best fidelity.  Cassette tape was coming along but didn't match an albums fidelity unless you a $1,000 Nakamichi deck.  Reel to real was close, but they were expensive too and I never like what Dolby did to the high end so I accepted a little hiss using my Pioneer RT-707 at 7 1/2 IPS speed.   I tried different speakers year after year.  I was a high school and college student so money was an issue but I started out with some house brand speakers then onto BIC and JBL. Later on I got moved into Dahlquist and Magneplanars. My brother in law was also into audio and we'd often work out trades to try different gear.  I recall one listening session at his house using some Dahlquist DQ-10's with a Marantz 510M (256 WPC!) amp with the Sheffield Lab Drum Record.  We got real crazy and also ran the signal through a Pioneer RG-1 dynamic expander.  We turned it up and watched the Marantz peak indicator lamps blink on those massive bass drum beats and noticed the room lights would also dim at the same time! The hair stood up on the back of my neck while listening.  Oh what fun we had back then! 

Fast forward to the present.  I wanted to relisten to all those perfect condition records (I held them by the edges and always used my Discwasher on them) I still had in a closet.   So I set out to build a phono system in our formal living room.  My wife has always tolerated me having an audio system in there as the room is used very little.   Below is the system I came up with.  I hope you enjoy reading about it. 

Thanks for looking!   Ken Drescher                                                                               Comments? Email me by clicking here.

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Front view of system, listening to a little Robin Trower through some Magneplanar MG-1 Speakers.  I always loved the sound of Magneplanar speakers.   They have the best upper bass and midrange of any speaker I wanted to afford.  I have a Japanese direct disc album with a small jazz group and I swear these speakers make one selection sound like they are performing right in your room.  They are connected to the Hafler amp using Monster Cable®. A doctor who is is a member of our bicycle club was moving and offered me these speakers for free.   I have really enjoyed his nice gift.

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Here's a closer view of the rack.  This heavy duty rack is made by Roomtune. I had to take one shelf out as I wanted room for some albums on the bottom.

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Here are my main components.  Advent 300 receiver is used for the Tom Holman designed phono section.  A Kenwood KD-500 turntable with Infinity Black Widow arm (first version, non- graphite) with Ortofon MC10 moving coil cartridge, Hafler DH-200 power amp and American Audio P-10 CD Player.

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I've always wanted a Kenwood KD-500 turntable with Infinity Black Widow tomearm.  One showed up on auction at Ebay in very nice condition and I was the winner!  The seller did a wonderful job packing this very heavy table with delicate tonearm.  This was a popular high end combination in the 70's.

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This is the first version of the Infinity Black Widow tonearm (note the double triangle spider symbol in red).  It uses a flat black finished thin aluminum tube for the arm.  Later versions used a graphite fiber tube.  I ddn't even know there were different versions until I bought the table/arm combo and did some research.  I do love the simplicity and elegance of this tonearm.

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The tonearm came with a Ortofon MC10 moving coil cartridge that sounds fine.  Most cartridges are moving magnet design which has magnets connected to the cantilever while a moving coil has lighter weight coils attached to the cantilever - so less inertia to overcome inside the groove.  The tradeoff is the moving coil design has to have a step up preamp before it's fed into your preamps phono input.  Ortofon provided this device.

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Top: American Audio P-10 Custom designed CD player created by audio engineer, Doug Guth. Below: Advent 300 was selected used for it's famous Tom Holman phono circuit, nice sounding FM tuner and simplicity.

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Top: American Audio P-10 CD player Middle: Advent 300 Receiver  Bottom: Hafler DH-200 Power Amp

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Advent 300 Receiver.  I've always admired Advent products.  The late Henry Kloss really knew how to make great sounding equipment for a modest price.  He allowed so many modest income people experience some great audiophile quality sound.   While most are aware of Mr. Kloss through his famous Large Advent speakers he was involved with some electronics like receivers, radios and even the first projection TV!  I love the look of the Advent 300.  Some had silver faces (rare).  One version operated off 12 volts for use in boats and RV's. This one is slightly different as it has a chromed headphone nut. David Reaton has a great site about the Advent 300 and other Advent products.  Check it out here:  Model 300 Receiver

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Hafler DH-200 Power amp.  Dave Hafler is another brilliant audio designer that made cost effective gear for the masses. He perfected the kit concept while at Dynaco.   His DH-200 used MOS FET outputs and had a nice sound.  At 100 watts per channel and rock solid stability driving low impedence loads make it a good choice for use with Magneplanar panel speakers.

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American Audio P-10 CD Player. Audio engineer and designer, Doug Guth, worked at American Audio, a local Greenville, SC high end audio salon. Here is how he described his P-10 CD player design "I used a Philips/Magnavox FD-2040 transport and chassis only. I built my own front panel and controls and most importantly my own analog output stages." This unit has three Tip Toes on bottom and a special coating on the cabinet.

 

I hope you have enjoyed this short review of my formal living room phono system.  I wish you could come listen to some favorite albums with me!

 

Click here to visit my used audio website audio.net                                                  Comments or Questions? Email me by clicking here.