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Several years ago when I was away at an audio show, my wife was awakened in the middle of night by violent shaking and rumbling all through the house. The police were summoned. After scanning the outside perimeter with flashlights for intruders and finding nothing, they traced the disturbance to my Velodyne DD-15 subwoofer that had spontaneously entered its cyclical frequency sweep at high volume. Scary!
Awhile back, I tried to go one brand and sold my Meridian 808.2 CDP. The replacement I really wanted to like and did quite a bit of tweaking to no avail. As an added insult my late BFF Buster would only lay behind my chair or off to the side. That was enough for me! Sold the unit and replaced it with another Meridian. Buster then returned to his spot.
In 1989 I was at long last finally getting around to building my first "serious" system (at least in terms of what I could spring for in those days). Everything back then was pretty much brick and mortar, but I had spent some time over the prior 3 yrs driving to nearby states to put my ears on various speakers in the $2k or less range...a lot of money for me at the time. As a baseline of performance I was comparing them to a pair of floorstanders that I had already discovered in my own hometown that I truly loved at only $1k a pair, but wanted to see what else was out there. By about the end of ’89, and after exhausting all the hifi shops in a 500 mile radius, it had become clear to me that my hometown speakers for the money were the real thing - Magnat MSP 120’s that were being made in West Germany.
But, right around the time I could scrape up the cash amount (about $1050 with tax), the Berlin Wall was coming down. The sense of a new era was in the air at the time that a lot of people, including myself, were caught up in.
The only problem for me was that reunification meant essentially a total collapse of German bureaucracy...costs of shipping overseas in and out of Germany for example skyrocketed overnight...to send a screw to there, as I would find out through the store owner, would have cost $50...a tweeter, more than $200...Let alone a whole speaker (70 lbs each)??...the Pair???...would’ve cost thousands! And as much for them to send out.
I had been flirting with buying these speakers for almost 3 years now, but when the time had actually come for me to close the deal, the owner then informed me that there were only 2 North American distributors, the other in Boston and that the only pairs left in either location were the floor models and that no new stock was forthcoming...and that his price had just gone up by 450 bucks. It was 450 bucks I didn’t have.
Ok, alright, I could tell straight away when he told me all that, that I was being screwed. It was a bit too much for me to take...all that time and effort to arrive at the best solution for me, and one that I was ecstatic about at that, only for it to blow up in my face. I was disgusted with the owner and the whole deal. As soon as he told me that, I just looked at him sternly and walked out...after that, I didn’t think I’d ever have another reason to walk back in there again.
So, I did the only thing I could think to do...go down to my local billiard bar with my friends and do my level best to drink the whole damn thing off my mind. While there, as they frequently did, they were raffling off tickets to a pool cue. I still had the $1050 in my wallet, so I sprang for a ticket for 5 bucks. To my shock and amazement, I won...had been buying those things on and off for several years without any luck...and then suddenly that night - out of all nights. The cue was worth $600. I turned around and sold it immediately to another patron that night for...450 bucks!
I went back to that store the very next day and asked the guy point blank "Has your price on those speakers gone up again?!?" After a second, he said "No..." I plunked the total amount in cash down on the counter, shoved it in his direction and, without a hint of a smile, I simply said "Here..." That was that.
A few days after getting them home successfully, I learned that Magnat had been forced to nullify all their warranties in North America (out of self protection, really), since they would be contractually obligated to pay return shipping, as horrendous as that would’ve been had anyone managed to cover the costs of getting their speakers back to the company. But, even so, it didn’t matter...the speakers never had a hiccup in the 20 yrs I owned them before moving on, and they were the first speakers I ever fell stone in love with their sound. Soon after the purchase I powered them with some Luxman amps and the sound was great!
One of my better purchases, that very nearly wasn’t to be.
(don_c55, your stories are AMAZING!)
It was 1987. I had audiophile fever, a bad case. No one I knew could help; there wasn't a dealer or hi-end store of any consequence w/in 60 miles. Of course no Internet then, but there were classified ads, and so it came to pass that I purchased a used pair of Vandersteen IV's. Bear in mind that I'd never seen or heard any Vandy speakers, but I just sorta knew they'd do the trick--and I'd somehow gotten my hands on the manual for the IV's and it was love at first sight.
I paid $3K for these beasts (BIG speakers); that was monster money in my world back then. They had be shipped via semi-trailer, the really big, long trucks you see X 1 million on every highway (shipping cost me an extra $600, if memory serves).
So one day this colossal truck pulls up in front of my house. We had a 200+ ft. driveway, so the driver & I had to wrestle these whoppers down the driveway on a dolly while my neighbors watched in amazement (each speaker was in a box the size of a medium-sized refrigerator). The driver was a real big guy, built like a pro wrestler. I had a bunch of stairs going up to the front door and I said to him, kind of joking, "I don't think I can lift this f***er" into the house by myself." He said, "Oh, I can!" and he grabs one of the boxes in a bear-hug and dead-lifts it into the house while I have an infarct. Later I would marvel that those 4 round wooden posts that form the outside of the speaker (under the sock) didn't just snap under his grip...
So while my neighbors snickered ("that boy is NUTS!"), I got those beasts into the house. Later, when everything was all hooked up (Adcom 555 amp on the bottom, tube amps on top, VPI TT + Grado MM cartridge on the front), it was HEAVEN. Those Vandy IV's are still the best speakers I've ever had in my home. Sadly, they've been in storage ever since we moved to this house in '90.
Does anyone from Chicago remember a guy named Basil, or know anything about him? Back in the ’70s he used to sell high end audio out of a bunch of condos. You’d tell him what you wanted to audition and he would set up an appointment at the appropriate condo.I was looking for a pair of JBL L100s. He auditioned a pair of Hill Plasmatronics for me too.
He also introduced me to Nina Simone and I’ve been a fan ever since.
The year was when Richard Vandersteen released the original Model 3s. I went with an audio buddy on a 2 hour trek to The Stereo Shoppe in Selinsgrove, PA be introduced to the 3s by none other than RV himself. The date was October 31. Relevant. We went up to the top (3rd) floor to listen to an LP released by T.A.S's own Harry Pearson. The record was entitled "The Sounds of Space" or such. We were listening through electrostatics, well regarded for their high frequency prowess. Boy did that LP have high high frequencies in spades. After about 10 minutes listening to the minute, we were rudely interrupted by a bat flying out of the chimney behind the speakers right at our heads. Never moved that fast before or since, slamming the door to the room behind us. We came downstairs to congratulate the proprietor, Dale (great guy) at going to such lengths to recognize Halloween. After trudging upstairs, tennis racket in hand, he managed to swat the ugly bugger, triumphantly descending the steps with his trophy. As memory serves Richard and the rest of us knew that moment was staying with us forever. At least it has with me.
PS As we exited to go to our car we saw several bats swirling around that same chimney where the LP was playing yet again. Bats liked the highs as presented by those speakers!!
Back in the mid-70's, I was hanging out one evening with my friend Tom Tutay, who now does a lot of tube amp work. He'd just gotten in a Dyna ST150 solid state amp, and as was his practice back then, he went about beefing up the power supply. He put in much larger caps. I came over to his place to check it out and he had the cover off so I could see his work. He flipped the power switch on and walked away. A few minutes later flames, about 15 inches high as I recall, came shooting out of the top! Tom quickly rushed over and powered it off.
As it turned out, one of the caps was labeled backwards and got wired in backwards, which was a dead short. As it turned out all it did was burn out some resistors. The output devices were unharmed. A new cap and replacement resistors went in and the amp worked fine.
So THIS is what they mean by the "smoke test"!
A lo-fi tale: In the fall of 1982, as a college student, I got a part-time job at Lafayette Radio on 45th St. in Manhattan (which was wholly owned by Circuit City at the time). These were the days of cheaply made mid-fi from Sansui, Technics, JVC and others. On one particularly busy day, a familiar face motioned me over to a stereo receiver on display. There was no doubt, it was the actor Jack Warden. He pointed to the entry level Technics receiver, priced at $109.95, and asked if it was the one that had been on sales for $99.95 the prior week. Indeed it was, I replied, but the sale was over. "That's okay," he said, "I'll wait until it goes on sale again." He then turned and left the store. I thought it was pretty funny.
I have LOTS of stories, but here is one:
It was the 2003 Stereophile Show in San Francisco. I had voiced the system as I always did. However, this time I needed to meet a certain technical requirement (we had a particularly nasty bass problem in the room), but I was ultimately unsatisfied with its musical impact.
This was initially addressed by bringing in a friend/technical expert (Richard Rives-Bird) who proceeded to equalize the bass system with his Rives PARC so that it was exceptionally flat – no more peak at 50 Hz. Unfortunately, that’s how I felt after listening to this amazing technical achievement – flat.
After deciding that I had to make sure that I properly addressed both aspects (technical & musical – meaning that I had some listening and adjusting to do), we went on to receive a level of universal acclaim that – honestly speaking - I didn’t expect.
Two well-known reviewers (Robert Harley of TAS and Srajan Ebaen of 6moons.com) commented in their publications about this acclaim. They were amazed to see the audience stand up and applaud (!) at the end of each demo session, something that they had never seen.
Twelve years later (!), Robert again wrote of this phenomenon, in a recent issue of TAS: The same system at a San Francisco show elicited a standing ovation with wild applause at the conclusion of Pink Floyd’s The Wall—the only instance of such a reaction to a show demo in memory. —RH]
The implication for me was/is that it’s not enough to achieve technical excellence when voicing a system to a room - we shouldn’t leave it at that. We then need to apply the technical excellence to achieve musical involvement, IMO.