Audio Equipment I Have Owned

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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Chicagoland
Continuing the saga of my Audiophile Journey, in 1994 my first wife Marilyn and I moved from our Winfield condo into a brand new SFR down the road a couple of miles in West Chicago. Since this was a semi-custom home I got to design an audio room in the basement, including walls and electrical service. Although Marilyn passed away in 2010, I lived there until 2014, a full 20 years. During that time for several years together we had not only the main audio room in the basement, but other full audio systems in our kitchen, bedroom, and den and in the basement a computer audio system, a home theater, and a vintage audio system. After Marilyn passed I added an eighth system to my living room. This helps explain all the equipment I've owned over the years.

Here's a picture of move in day to my new basement audio room. As you can tell, I had a lot of Sonex:

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The first speakers I had in this room were Caver Amazing Platinum Mk IV, which replaced my modified-per-Van-Alstine B&W 801 Matrix Series II just before the move. The Carvers were perfect for this room in terms of flat bass response and otherwise pleasing bass response. I would have kept them much longer if the ribbons had not kept blowing out. I loved loud orchestral power music at the time and was driving the speakers which bridged Audio by Van Alstine FET Valve amps putting out about 700 wpc. This had not fazed the B&Ws, but apparently was too much for the Carver ribbons. Fortunately Carver stood by his design and kept replacing them for free; I got very proficient at it and must have replaced each ribbon at least four times before giving up and moving on to other speakers. As you can tell by the following picture, sometimes I used my Sonex wrapped into cylinders to form a poor-man's Tube Trap:

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My dad passed away in 1995. Not only did we wisely use part of my inheritance to pay off our mortgage, but I unwisely spent $50k on an all-Cello (the company headed by Mark Levinson the man after he left the company with his name in the hands of others) system. Try as I might, I can't locate any pictures of that system, but it included Celo Stradivari Premiere speakers, the Cello Reference DAC, a specially modified Marantz Pro CD transport, the Cello Palette Pramp (on the beautiful clear acrylic Cello audio cart), the Cello Duet 350 power amp, and all Cello Strings balanced cabling and tri-wired speaker cables. It was a thing of beauty and sounded darn good as well. That was my second "one brand" component audio system, the first being an all Audio by Van Alstine system during our condo days, the speakers being those modified B&Ws which Frank Van Alstine used to voice all his equipment from that era.

The first part of the break up of the all-Cello system was trading the speakers for the Legacy Audio Whispers. The Whispers, like the Carvers and other dipole-bass speakers, produced very flat, even bass in my difficult concrete bunker basement room. The Whispers, in hindsight, were one of the speakers I wished I'd held onto longer. I wrote my first published online review of the Whisper speakers in 22StereoTimes in 2000.



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I modified these speakers eventually to eliminate all the extra binding posts in series with the drivers. Like other dipole bass speakers, found that while the response measured flat down to 20 Hz, the bass always seemed to lack a bit or more of punch, despite the four 15" woofers per side. I thus augmented the bass with first the Legacy Xtreme sub (its amp hummed too much to keep), then a pair of ACI Titan II LE (nice, but not quite powerful enough), and finally a pair of JL Fathom F113 subs (now we're talking!) but while this added some punch, due to my difficult room, monopole subwoofers created a continual need for adding outboard equalization in addition to the Legacy Steradian which was part of the Legacy Whisper system.

For no real reason other than audiophile nervosa's siren call, aka "the grass is always greener on the other side," I moved on to other speakers (and of course new electronics periodically as well). Next in this room was something completely different, the Ohm Walsh 5 Mk III, a very wide dispersion speaker with a small phase coherent module mounted atop the cabinet. The Walshes had the distinction for the most unusual/anal boxing arrangement I've every seen, with no fewer than five nesting boxes protecting the main cabinets.



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I eventually blew a driver in one of the Ohms. The repaired speakers were also updated and never matched the great bass response of the originals. I moved on to the Linkwitz Orion. These were just okay, having problems with high frequency clarity, buzzing, and the dedicated ATI 12-channel (60 wpc) amps running out of power in the bass (the Bryston amps in the picture were not in use for the Orions).


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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
535
112
455
68
Chicagoland
After the Linkwitz Orion, in 2004, a year or two after REG's initial review of the Harbeth Monitor 40 speakers in TAS, I acquired my own pair of these, beginning a long running affair with the various iterations of this speaker. As I came to realize over the years, my basement room was just WRONG for these speakers. But I made the best of it with various configurations, stands, and equalizers. The original M40 needed some 16 dB of midbass cut in my room and had no low bass to speak of in this room and thus benefited greatly from my JL Fathom subs. Still, above the bass, the Harbeths were magnificent, clearer if not nearly as realistically "life sized" sounding as the Legacy Whispers had been.

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Here's one of my earliest Harbeth M40 set ups:


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Eventually I traded the original M40s for the then-new M40.1s which worked somewhat better in my basement room, needing only about an 8 dB cut in the midbass to scotch the boom. Still, while I kept these speakers for a decade, I had them in storage for quite a while, moving on first to the Sanders 10C. While these were super clear and detailed, in my quiet room the quiescent hiss from the crossover/EQ was audible even outside the room and the bass driver, when EQed for flat bass down to 20 Hz overloaded easily.



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The last speakers I had in my audio room in my old house were all Gradient Models. These worked extremely well in this difficult room. First I had the Gradient 1.3. This speaker was fabulous in this room for something so diminutive, especially when augmented with my EQed JL subs. Yes, it looked strange, but it was cute in a high-tech sort of way, especially with the Sonex "mustache." I've included a number of photos of this one because good photos of it are rare online.

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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
535
112
455
68
Chicagoland
After my success with the Gradient 1.3, I decided to try the then-new Gradient 1.5. These were just as striking looking in a more decorator friendly way. However, the dipole bass really didn't work too well in this room, a first for dipole bass, because the dipole faced sideways. Still, I found ways to make them work very well in this room when augmented by the JL subs. It was at this time that I also experimented with a speakers-very-close-together Ambiosonics arrangement, courtesy of the XTC function of my TacT RCS 2.2 XP AAA.


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The last speakers I had in this room were another Gradient model, the Gradient Revolution Active, augmented by custom Gradient SW-T subwoofer towers. The combination meant I had eight 12" woofers working below 200 Hz per channel. These speakers were driven by bi-amped Sanders Magtech Monoblocs, at 1200 wpc each. No need for JL subs with this set up. It played as loud and as deep as I cared, with only the slightest lack of punch despite all-dipole woofing. I would have kept this set up and transferred it to my new home except that of all the stereo equipment I owned, my new wife really only objected to these all-black towers, finding them too intimidating and room dominating. They also admittedly were not the most stable things and would have been fairly easy to accidentally knock over with resulting injury to both person and subwoofers. So when we moved to our new home in late 2014, this last Gradient speaker did not make the move, finding their way to a hopefully appreciative new owner. This picture gives you an idea of the size of the sub towers; it doesn't help the effect that there are also "towers" of dark grey Sonex on the walls.


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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
535
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Chicagoland
In my West Chicago house, as I mentioned above, not only did I have a continually changing audio system in my dedicated basement audio room, but also other audio systems in other rooms. Here are some pictures of an early iteration of my home theater system, from its early beginnings with the Cello Palette Preamp, an old Sony Trinitron color TV and vintage Rectilinear III highboy speakers:


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Later we installed a full-fledged 7.2 surround system built around a 50" Pioneer Elite plasma screen and Totem Dreamcatcher speakers and subs, powered by a top Denon 5803 (?) AVR, with a top Monster power purifier Oppo and Pioneer DVD and other equipment:


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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
535
112
455
68
Chicagoland
In our bedroom we had basically two iterations of a system built around a mid-1980s Sony receiver and a Sony ES 5-disc carousel CD player. Speakers initially were Siefert Maxim III (bought on recommendation from Stereophile's JGH--the 12 kHz peak was inaudible given their high-up placement) and later a pair of restored vintage AR-5 speakers.


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In our den we had systems which revolved around Sequerra speakers augmented by the best bargain in the history of subwoofers, the B&W Acoustitune passive sub, recommended to me by Frank Van Alstine. The subwoofer is the black speaker atop the cabinet in the first system picture below and was later in the bottom right corner of the cabinet. The first iteration was easy to install, but once we converted our den to custom California Closets woodwork, the installation got quite difficult indeed, especially since I insisted on using as-short-as-possible high-end stiff cabling, such as MIT MH-750 Music Hose speaker cables. The main speakers were at first Sequerra Met 7 MkII, the version recommended by HP in TAS. I later regrettably replaced those with the smaller Met 7 Mk IV which, while fine, were never as good as the earlier larger Mk II, pictured close up immediately below, sans the foam grills. In the first system picture below, you can barely see our first home computer at the lower left, an ancient IBM ThinkPad, circa 1984, a 486 machine.

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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
535
112
455
68
Chicagoland
In the basement of my West Chicago home I also eventually installed an all vintage stereo system. This was built around vintage Acoustic Research equipment: an AR Amplifier, AR Tuner, AR-3a speakers (which I personally refurbished), and a Marantz SA-1 SACD player--by then "vintage" since it was one of the first two SACD players (the other was Sony's SCD-1). The speakers were installed atop an Ikea bookcase housing Marilyn's scrapbook collection (from which I got some of the old photos included in this thread). In one of the photos you can see the doorway to the main audio room in the adjoining room of the basement. This vintage stereo was itself just behind the home theater area in the basement.

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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
535
112
455
68
Chicagoland
I've had a love affair with radio ever since high school. But I only purchased my first FM tuner around 1973 when I was a senior in college. I got it--a Dynaco FM-5 from Pacific Stereo in Champaign Illinois. I kept that tuner longer than any other component I ever owned. I paired it with various components through the years and it never disappointed. I kept getting better antennas for it as radio reception challenges got greater through the years. I started with a simple FM dipole wire antenna, then moved to a BIC Beam Box, a home-made Rhombic, and finally a Channel Master FM-9 Stereo Probe which I mounted in the attic of first our condo and then our West Chicago home.

Eventually I bought other "hotter" tuners such as the Sony STJ 75, a Tandberg 3001A, and Fanfare FT-1A. None sounded better than the old Dyna.

I did eventually find a much quieter tuner after HD radio came along in the form of the Day Sequerra M4r HD tuner, but HD radio traded peerless analog sonic quality for the greater quieting. The best sounding FM tuner I ever owned undoubtedly was the vintage Sansui TU-X1 which I had fully recapped and otherwise reworked by Absolute Sound Labs, an expert tuner repair shop. It sounded magnificent, if not quite as quiet as the Sequerra's HD. But, when I moved to my new home, I gave it up since there was no way to mount a large antenna in my new home and running the lead in wire through the plaster walls would have been a nightmare.

By 2014, when I moved, I was basically moving on to internet radio anyway. The Fi was not so Hi, but the variety was huge and all the signals were totally quiet. My diminutive Logitech Squeezebox Touch units brought the entire world of internet radio to my listening rooms at the touch of a remote control. Streaming audio services were making their appearance as well, so the handwriting was on the wall. I could no longer justify the huge Sansui TU-X1 for the one Chicago radio station, WFMT, worthy of its sonics when the little Sqeezebox Touch could give me thousands of stations at my command. A new era was dawning.

Still, I miss my Dyna and the Sansui . . . the good old days.


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