A long and winding road down memory lane . . .


Back in the late '60's, the tale end of HS, then college and the decade following, I was really heavy into the audio scene. Way back then, I knew many of the people associated with Stereophile and Absolute Sound and hung out with a number of high-end gurus in the Raleigh NC area. I also accumulated a really fine -- at least, for its day -- audio system, some of it new and some of it acquired by deals for cast-offs with those various golden-eared friends whose wallets were more stuffed than mine at their annual (quarterly? monthly?) system reorganizations in pursuit of the latest advances, real or imagined, or simply to satisfy their GAS (gear acquisition syndrome).

My system started small: A Garrard SL95, HeathKit AR-1500, a pair of AR3 speakers and Koss Pro4a headphones (I know, the Garrard and the Pro4a's weren't all that, but the HeathKit and the AR3's were the bomb in their day). Over a period of about fifteen years, I graduated to a system that might not have been the absolute best, but it was probably in the top 1-or-2%. My system stabilized with a Thorens TD126 Mk3, a Technics SP10 Mk2 (both with SME 3009 arms), a McIntosh MR78 tuner (and the MPI-4), a Studer/Revox A702, a Nakamichi Dragon, an Apt Holman preamp, three Hafler DH-500 amps, and a pair of ML Monolith speakers (with an active DQ-LP1 crossover). I'd also accumulated some 600 albums -- including the entire catalog of MFSL half-speed mastered LP's -- all packed nicely in those nice 13x13 plastic crates that eggs came in from the grocery store.

Then disaster struck. I moved into a corner, ground-level unit in a garden apartment complex. I'd been there less than a week when, in broad daylight, while I was at work, someone backed a trailer up against my living room window, tossed in a cinder block, cleared out the debris and loaded the trailer through the opening. All my equipment and records gone! Actually, not quite, they left me the Apt preamp, the DQ-LP1 crossover and a bunch of cut audio cables. They hadn't taken time to disconnect anything. They just pulled power cords and cut everything else.

The police came and went, showing little interest in following up. The management of the apartment complex insisted that none of their employees would ever do such a thing (they didn't notice a trailer parked on their manicured lawn and a gaping hole in the wall after it pulled away???). When I went back to the police to get a copy of the report, they stonewalled for a couple of weeks and finally gave me a copy -- with the incident date wrong by EIGHT days! Yeah, they were really interested in finding the culprit(s). Even worse, although I had had insurance where I had been living, the company insisted that they were not responsible at the new location in spite of my policy still having four months of coverage remaining. So, no insurance. A total loss. I abandoned my audiophile ways cold turkey.

Fast forward several decades and I'm retired. In going through some old boxes, I came across the ancient Apt preamp and the DQ-LP1 crossover. The bug has bitten again. No, not the Covid-19 bug, the audiophile bug. Although, forced inactivity brought on by the pandemic and staring at four walls may have been a highly contributing factor. I've just paid an insane amount of money (I'm not complaining; I consider both purchases to be very fair deals -- just saying) for a used McIntosh MR-80 (that belonged to David Ogden Stiers - how cool is that?) and an MPI-4. Now I'm on a quest for more vintage toys. I haven't decided if I'm going to try to replicate my vinyl collection -- probably not. So I may skip the turntables. But nothing I've ever heard compared to the electrostats -- not even the DQ-10s and 1Ws that preceded them.

Now, an impractical question: who reconditions Apt Holman preamps these days? Mine hasn't even been plugged in since the mid-'80's.
weh51nc
Pity you weren’t there with a shotgun. Dump the preamp. Get a new one. Get an excellent outdoor antenna for your tuner. Get a laptop and stream Tidal HiFi.
Hi weh51nc,
Glad to see that you're back in the game. Sorry about that bad past experience. I do have one piece of advice though. I am intimately familiar with the Apt Holman pre and amplifier, and unless you want to use it out of nostalgia, I think you could do far better without spending a fortune. The Apt pre is very lacking in dynamics and timbre by modern standards, and music through is sounds a little drab and gray, although it is never harsh, and it's a very reliable piece.
Before you sink money into it, give another pre or two a try.
Great story! (edcyn)
Really? I thought it was rather depressing. 
unless you want to use it out of nostalgia  (roxy54)
Nostalgia is part of it. I knew Tom Holman back in the day. And my Apt (meaning the one I actually owned) beat out the Threshold FET-1 in a double-blind listening test conducted by HP back in 1981. I don't think he was happy about it as it never got published, but it DID happen. Frank Richards and Pat Donleycott were both there. I know Harry passed on a few years ago. I suspect Frank and Pat have also but I don't know -- they were both 20-some years older than I am and I'm ancient now.

I intend to look into getting the Holman refurbished; but, depending on the cost, I may just leave it on the shelf and get something else. Or, I may get it refurbished AND get something else. The bug has bitten and the bite is getting infected.

I'm also going for a pair of Martin Logan electrostats -- used as I can't afford new -- probably either the Monolith III or the Prodigy models. If I can find them in decent condition at a price I can afford.
Dave Cox of Puckerbrush Audio in Norway Maine has restored and modified many of the Apt Holman preamps. He has restored many pieces for me and does great work.
See if this guy is still working on them...

https://www.audioproz.com/AP.php?Article=95

I looked @ one in the late 70's, but cheaped out and stuck with my Advent 300 (phono) patched through a Dynaco PAS3X.

DeKay
I also had an old Advent 300 at one time. Good phono section, decent tuner and preamp. The power amp section was great for headphone but not so great for speakers.
Tom Holman designed the phono section of the Advent 300 (based upon a penny pitchers manufacturing budget) and yes, it was very good for the time.

The APT was definitely the best (IMO) SS preamp/phono section that I listened to back then, but like you I lost interest in 1986 and didn't come back until the late 90's.

Wonder what a properly refurbished unit with higher quality, but appropriate parts, would sound like today?

DeKay


Wonder what a properly refurbished unit with higher quality, but appropriate parts, would sound like today? (dekay)
Don't know, but I'm going to find out. There appear to be two people refurbishing the Holman on the East Coast -- one in Maine and one in Massachusetts. I'm going to contact both and see what's involved. In addition to the signal circuitry, I'm going to opt for an external DC power supply that I've seen mentioned several places on line, delivering better (and cleaner) power to the preamp. I'll also replace all the RCA connectors with gold-plated ones.
Wow you were ripped off ,that was really bad.
I'm probably biting off more than I can chew; however, I've started rebuilding. Much of what I'll be purchasing is 20-to-40 years old and will require both TLC and, possibly, mucho dinero, to get it back in spec. I've created one of your virtual systems -- named "Nostalgia" We'll see how long it takes me to rename it "Bottomless-Pit"