WAJ on AUDIO - for truth in hifi / stereo / high-end audio



Help Me Build; THE SYSTEM U DESCRIBED - Part 1.

(1st Purchase: Altec Valencia - Heathkit edition)


A reader recently contacted me with a request for help in building the equivalent of one of the systems described in my article, 'High-End Audio on a Budget: Getting the Very-Best HiFi Sound at the Least Possible Cost'.

He already has several systems (in two homes) and one of these systems was implemented by a reputable audio-consultant, incorporating highly-regarded Genelec speakers - at significant expense. Apparently, that system could be regarded as approaching the popular concept of 'state of the art sound'. [WAJ on AUDIO's concept, though, equates 'state of the art sound' with REALISM, not the popular hifi 'niceties' - the system in prospect exemplifies this concept (as espoused by this 'site) in which realistic  tone & dynamics are THE major players. Detail plays only a very important supporting-role, contrary to popular practice where-in it's the star.] At least one of this reader's other systems involves Marantz electronics and Infinity speakers. However, he was dis-satisfied with all these as they were not realistic enough, and did not motivate him to listen to music.

Perhaps I should just quote him from a segment of our correspondence;  

"You asked about my current system.  I thought an explanation might explain my current enthusiasm.  My system at home in X-state is one of those whole house integrated systems with Sherbourne amps and Marantz integrated amps for theater etc.  In my media room I do have Genelec speakers which I enjoy but all in all the performance of the home system is nothing that inspires me.  Even with the Genelecs  - I never listen to music in my house.  In my apt in Y-state I have some of my old stuff.  I have another Marantz integrated amp for the 6.1 setup but I havent used it for a number of years.  The system I have been listening to is a Sonic T super amp, Soem preamp which I dont even know what it is and Infinity 3001 speakers, which I've had for 25 years.  Just something to listen to. 

I was in Tokyo last fall and visited a bar named Bar Martha.  It was an audiophile/whiskey bar.  Very cool place and I stayed for a long time enjoying a few cocktails and listening to a dj spin records on an absolutely gorgeous tube  system - very interesting place.  If you make too much noise (talk loudly)  you're asked to leave.  This place is strictly to listen to music and drink whiskey.  I realized how long it had been since I not only listened to recorded music but enjoyed it.  That exact date was Aug 1985 - when I bought my first cd player.  That's when the enjoyment of listening to recorded music stopped for me.  I won't lament the last twenty something years but at that bar in Tokyo I realized that I should take some initiative and try to begin to enjoy the pleasure of listening to music again. 

The guy who built my home system is well known for putting home systems together for famous musicians and well known personalities in the music industry so I trusted him through the process of designing and specing my home system.  Not surprisingly - he's into the latest and greatest (granted we did this project ten years ago).  He's a good guy and I respect his work.  I discussed with him my desire to have some place in the house to listen to a more realistic and warmer sound but it didnt happen. 

I returned from Jazzfest in New Orleans a few weeks ago and a friend of mine told me a story about having dinner at a friends house.  His friend is a writer who also writes for audio magazines as a hobby.  He's put together a very sophisticated and expensive system and my friend said that it blew him away.  He had never heard anything like that.  I was thinking - there must be a way to achieve a high level of performance without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars.  There is a line that goes - "the difference between fun and a lot of fun isn't that much fun". 

Anyhow, I guess that's how I tripped into your articles, which inspired me to build a high end system with used equipment.  The vintage aspect was of no interest to me - it just happens to be that some of this great equipment is old.  Keep in mind  - I've never heard any of the pieces I'm buying and I've never heard a high quality vintage system. My first impression will be my own system.  Bottom line is that I'm not going to lose my shirt if this doesnt work out to my expectations.  All these pieces have a market and seem to move on a constant basis.  However, I have very high confidence that I'm going to be satisfied with the performance and proud that I did it in a smart and economical manner..."

Part-way through this operation (not yet completed , at the time this is being written) here is his reaction after incorporating a couple of the components (speakers and amps) into one of his existing systems:

"I was literally trembling because the sound was so full and encompassing ( in haste - I only could hook it up to a cd player through a crappy preamp box that I think is just a line splitter).  I couldn't believe that I had made such a difference in my experience of listening to music in such a short time and I only had a few pieces so far." 

He continued, "I listened to a bunch of CDs on Wed night that were like brand new experiences for me.  I was hearing soundstaging and instrumental parts I wasn't aware of.  I listened to a few things I'd been listening to hundreds of times and it was a brand new experience.  As far as I'm concerned  - I've already reached my goal, which was to put together a system without breaking the bank which would give me an opportunity to listen to recorded music in a way I've been missing for years.  Tues and Wed night we're incredible for me.  Now the best part is that there are more goodies on the way that will only (hopefully) enhance the sound."


We both agreed that the thread of our correspondence may be of benefit to others and, thus, it's being presented here in a multi-part series. [Note that the reader's name was changed in the original version of this thread. However, in accordance with his subequent request, references to him have been further changed, in addition to changes made to the names of certain places, so as to further insulate him from possible identification.] In several instances, several options were discussed at length, and even those options that were not used are also included since they could also be helpful to others. For instance, the system in prospect, now partially complete, is significantly different from the one first discussed.

Here is the thread, with minor editing:

Sent: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 7:28 PM
Subject: System u described 

I was intrigued by ur article about buying used equipment. I was especially fascinated about the system u proposed below. I was not initially familiar w the equipment u mentioned but I have researched the components and I'm now even more interested.

My question for u is how theoretical is the system u describe below? Are these components you have ever heard together or is it an amalgamation of famous components and only meant to be illustrative as a concept?

Thanks for your assistance. I am seriously considering putting this system together. The only piece I'm not fully with at this point is the ARC SP-8.


Quoted from the article; 'High-End Audio on a Budget...'  -  "...An example? OK, consider a Thorens TD125 turntable with SME 3009II arm for $700, a Grado Reference Sonata cartridge for $500, an Audio-Research SP8 pre-amp with phono-stage for $1000, UREI 6150 or Quad 303 power-amp for less than $500, two pairs of original Advent speakers for $500. These Advents would be stacked, one inverted atop the other, to form one stereo pair - no mini-monitors advocated here. (There are two sets on e-bay for $249, each pair, even as I write). Total cost of this system (without cables and accessories) - $3200."                                  


.Sent: Friday, May 11, 2012 9:56:02 PM
Subject: Re: System u described

Hi X,

First of all, let me thank you for logging-on to WAJ on AUDIO.

You asked; "My question for u is how theoretical is the system u describe below? Are these components you have ever heard together or is it an amalgamation of famous components and only meant to be illustrative as a concept?"

I currently use a UREI 6150 as my main (full-range) power-amp - better than many highly regarded alternatives, in my experience. I also currently use a Grado Sonata cartridge in my main turn-table (a Linn Sondek/Ittok) which is better, but not that much better, than the Thorens TD125/SME mentioned below.

Though I've never used ALL these components together, a system of mine once consisted of most - with the exception of the speakers which, I'm sure, was the weak link in that system. That system comprised; Thorens TD125II/SME 3009II/Shure V15III (which I still own) Quad FM3 Tuner, Quad 33 pre-amp, Quad 303 power-amp (all excellent) and a Spendor BC1 speaker-system.

The latter (as with the others) was so-called 'state of the art' at the time, and still highly regarded today - justifiably so, in several aspects, but NOT in the area of overall realism, in my opinion. Having also heard Original Large Advents, I believe they are tonally more representative of live instruments than my BC 1, and most modern speakers.

In my opinion, a system which comprises double-stacked pairs of these Advents, combined with the above front-end and electronics, would be superior to the same level of quality equipment with my BC1, or most other modern speakers, in realistic tonality. On the other hand, The BC1, and many of the better modern speakers, will be superior at detail-resolution and soundstaging, unless the Advents are modified, eventually.

My major caveat with the Advents, however, would be in the area of dynamism. If you're like most audiophiles, then this will not be a major issue, but if you've read my articles extensively you'll know that I believe tone and dynamics are the two major elements missing from most modern speakers, precluding a closer approach to the realism of live instruments. The Advents address the tonal aspect, better than most, but even double-stacked pairs still lag in dynamism. This is partly why my own DIY speaker-system currently employs highly-modified double-stacked pairs of KLH speakers (like the Advents, they're also beneficiaries of designer Henry Kloss' dedication to tonality) which are more efficient/dynamic individually, and even more so when stacked - cheaper too. They're slightly better a low-mids, but inferior to the Advents at bass and, therefore, much more difficult to modify for the top-tier performance they now display in all areas, including the formerly problematic bass (a little Yamaha NS10, believe it or not, and sub-woofers assist in the process, here). [Modifications to my own KLHs, applicable also to the Advents, are described in several articles here.]

However, the modification route is a complicated one, especially for those who're not so-inclined. Even considering the caveats outlined, if your choice is the Advent (un-modified) then you should be privy to more tonal accuracy than most modern small-coned speakers can provide, even some of the most expensive - this is no joke.

The least-expensive new over-the-counter alternative I can think of (not yet heard by me, but highly recommended by trusted individuals) is the $2.5k Tekton Pendragon. From what I've heard of them, I'd expect tonal performance approaching that of the Advent, combined with much more dynamism and similar detail-resolution and slightly superior soundstaging. The knowledgeable and experienced audiophiles at Audiogon (discussion-forum) are especially enthusiastic about these, and even the smaller Lore. Some have abandoned very highly-reputed and expensive speakers (including SoundLabs and Magnepans) to replace them with these modestly priced phenomena. A double-stacked pair should be awesome. Speakers from Zu are also noteworthy, in similar regard. Alternatively, a cheaply-acquired used Altec Model 19 (eventually modified) would be a cost-effective alternative approaching the true state of the art, in my experience - surpassing the over-achieving Tektons and Zu, especially when appropriately modified - at even less initial cost.

Combined with the fore-mentioned front-end and electronics, any of these, including the Advents (caveats notwithstanding) should be outstanding - to say the least.

You also asserted; " The only piece I'm not fully with at this point is the arc sp-8."

If your concern has to do with the fact that the SP8 is tube-based, then the previously-mentioned solid-state Quad 33 is an ideal alternative, at much less cost, and at somewhat less performance-capability. My own current solid-state ARC LS3 is said to be slightly better than the SP8, and less-costly to boot. However, while the SP8 incorporates a world-class phono-stage (the Quad 33 too - to a lesser degree) the LS3 does not - a phono-stage will have to be bought separately, in this case. The very best and least expensive brand-new alternative to the SP8, that I can think of, is the Doge 8, which also incorporates a good phono-stage, at a cost below $1.5k. However, the Doge is also tube-based.

I hope this is helpful in your quest. Please let me know the outcome.




The following articles may also be of interest:





Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2012 2:39 PM
Subject: Re: System u described


Thanks for your reply. Your article on buying used gear tripped me into a this world of vintage and used high end audio equipment, which I'm now totally fascinated with. I have spent many hours now studying this equipment.

I am going to build the system you outlined and I am inclined at this point to stick with the ARC SP-8 due to the tubes and the phonostage output. I'm also leaning towards the Garrard 401 if I can find a good used one. I'll let you know how the system is coming along as it comes together. Thank's for sparking my interest in this area and for the very helpful response you provided to me last week.




Sent: Sunday, May 20, 2012 3:48:58 AM
Subject: Re: System u described


Hello again X,

It's great to know you've decided to build a system based on the gear I've recommended. I also view this as a big responsibility, on my part, to ensure you get the best quality and performance for your investment. With this in mind, while I'll not exactly TELL you what to buy and when, I'll illustrate to you what I would do, what I would buy (based on the interests you've indicated) and a rough sequence of the purchases I'd make. Depending on how experienced you are, this may or may not be helpful.

Patience is a great virtue in seeking the best prices in used equipment. There'll always be sellers seeking to hike prices above the norm so as to make a killing on a coveted piece of gear. Therefore if one is able to wait 'til a more reasonably priced option is available, then this will be to one's advantage. I also know that one may be anxious to build this system and start listening and enjoying - a possible solution for that may also become apparent.

On receiving your last e-mail, I checked with e-bay for a sense of what's available, and the current prices. I found that several of the prices I mentioned in that article are still in vogue, more or less. For instance, I quoted the Quad 303 at less than $5oo - there's one there today at the 'Buy Now' price of $295, I think (with very slight cosmetic damage) there's also a second being bid on, at the moment, but I'd go for the first if the price of the second passes that level - the slight blemish is inconsequential, in my opinion. I'd also quoted the Thorens TD125II with SME 3009II arm at around $700 - there are a few at e-bay today for around $790. However, I'd also mentioned that some of the classics appreciate in value. Now I'm not certain if the ARC SP8 has appreciated that much since I last checked 2yrs ago (yes, the SP8 certainly is a classic) but there's one at e-bay today for the 'Buy Now' price of $2995 - that's a whole lot more than they sold for 2yrs ago. Now, I'm not sure if this is manifestation of greed, in this particular instance, or whether this is the current going-rate for an SP8 but, if it's the latter, I'd suggest an alternative may be the better option. If that price is a fluke though then, obviously, it's better to wait for a more reasonably priced example, or to search elsewhere.

OK, originally you indicated an interest in the gear listed in the 'High-End on a Shoe-String' segment of the article. However, in this latest e-mail you cite a leaning towards the Garrard 401 (excellent choice). But, as the article indicated, acquisition and modification (bearing-mod is optional, but base/plinth is compulsory - I'd prefer granite, though other options are viable) of such a tt would perhaps approach somewhere around $5000 (possibly quite a bit less, depending on what you opt to do). And one of the cheaper arms commensurate with such a unit (perhaps the SME 3012 - a popular choice) would add perhaps another $2000 - there are several at e-bay today. A tt of this calibre operates in a completely different ball-park than that of the speakers I recommended with the components of that segment (A modified Garrard 401 certainly ain't no 'High-End on a Shoe-String' candidate - LOL). The ARC SP8 would certainly be at home in the Garrard's ball-park, for sure, and even the Quad 303 could be viable, and for a long time too (i.e. until an amp - Ampex? Stromberg-Carlson? - with performance equal to the ARC and Garrard is found). But, regarding my 'shoe-string' speakers, the double-stacked Advents, while they're viable and certainly tonally better than many modern alternatives, I've also indicated that they're dynamically challenged. The Garrard, ARC (or the $1.5k to $2k Doge8 with phono) and Ampex or Stromberg-Carlson amps WILL be capable of near state of the art performance, I believe such a system would deserve better speakers than the (admittedly good) Advents - Altec Model 19, Altec Valencia, JBL S3100, etc. Such a system would be awesome in its realism - much more so than many of the most expensive modern alternatives.

OK, so with all the above in mind, here's how I would go about it: If I already have a good system, and if I'm really in no great hurry to assemble this vintage system, then I'd take my time, purchasing the components one by one as the best gear at the best prices come along - if the process takes a year, I wouldn't mind. I'd also have to bear in mind that a 401, for instance, would have to be sent to a reputable restorer. I'd also have to find and purchase a good arm. And I'd also prefer to re-tip something like a Garrott P77 moving-magnet cartridge. If my choice is the Grado Sonata, then I'd also prefer to buy a used one at reduced price, $200 or $300 and have it re-tipped with a better ('micro-line', or similar) stylus by SoundSmith, or a similar outfit, so as to avoid the minor issues highlighted in my review of this otherwise excellent cartridge. (Total cost of this improved version would be around what a Sonata would cost new - $600, or there about, and the same applies to the Garrott, or equivalent). I'd also bear in mind, as the relevant article indicated that, while not compulsory, it's best to have a technician upgrade the capacitors and resistors of any vintage tube-amp or pre-amp I may purchase.

All of this takes time. So if I don't already have a system, at the moment, and if I'm anxious to hear my vintage system in operation, then I'd take a different tact. I'd buy all the readily available components, substituting my second-choices for those which are not yet available. That way I'd have the system running in no time, while I seek the few items which are more elusive. For example:

a. I'd run out and buy that very good Thorens 125II with SME 3009II arm at around $750, or so (just for the interim 'til I find and restore/modify my Garrard). And after I do find and modify my Garrard I'd just sell the Thorens, perhaps without the arm, for the same price I bought both for. The SME 3009II arm from the Thorens I could attach to my 'new' modified Garrard until such time that I find a reasonably priced SME 3012 (they both use the same base I believe, so no worries there, tho the positioning would have to be different). After which, I'd then sell the 3009.

b. I'd also run out and buy that cheap but excellent Quad 303 at less than $500. I'd use this 'til I find and restore (replacing caps and resistors) my Ampex or Stromberg-Carlson mono-blocs. When my 'new' amps are ready, I'd simply sell the Quad for what I bought it for.

c. This one is a little tricky. If the going-rate for an SP8 has now really gone up to anywhere near $3k (this is what the slightly better ARC SP11 sold for, recently) I'd rule it out. Why? Well, that's because a Doge 8 Clarity tubed pre-amp, which also includes a good phono-stage, costs only around $2000 - brand-new (the ordinary model costs even less, at about $1.5k). And here's the shocker; some believe it's even better than the SP8. And, since it's brand-new, there's no need to send it away for cap and resistor replacement. And tube-rolling could improve its performance even further. The Doge 8 Clarity demands serious attention. At it's cheap price, it threatens to put vintage pre-amps out of business, especially since it's definitely better than most - old and new. Since the pre-amps are available, there's no need for an interim substitute, here. Neither in the next case:

d. As I said, if my system is to include the likes of a modified Garrard 401 combined with an ARC SP8 (or Doge 8 Clarity) then I'd also want speakers which are more dynamic than the tonally excellent stacked Advents. Just to be clear, my opinion is that most modern speakers lack realistic tonality and dynamism, causing their lack of realism. Stacked Advents dust these speakers in realistic tonality, without doubt, but they lag in dynamism - this is why they were only recommended for the cheapest of our example-systems. The system we're now considering is no 'cheapie', it deserves a minimum of Tekton Pendragon, $2.5k, which are as good as the stacked Advents tonally (and, therefore, better than most in this area) but also much more dynamic. Better still is JBL's 3100, recipient of raves and recommended as 'world-class' by famed French speaker-designer/reviewer Jean Hiraga. However, since these are rare and fairly expensive at a used-price of around $5k, the equally highly-reputed and equally as good Altec Model 19 or Valencia (both of which use the same drivers) could be the best options, with performance more closely approaching the state of the art in tonality, dynamism, and overall realism than most conventional alternatives which cost tens of thousands of dollars. An Altec Valencia (assembled by Heathkit, in this instance) is currently at e-bay, with a 'Buy Now' price just shy of $2000 (I'd test my luck in such a scenario by, not bidding but, offering the seller directly $1200 to $1500, at first, but $2k really seems reasonable). Another Valencia is also being bid on as I write. (My own DIY speaker-system now incorporates elements of these, by the way, from a water-damaged Model 19 I'd bought some time ago - Altecs at this level are seriously realistic speakers).

Hopefully, one or two ideas from these hypothetical examples will assist in this venture. Feel free to contact me any or every day, if necessary. Obviously, I'm absolutely happy to spare the time to help in any way I can. After all, if I led you to the river, the least I can do is to help you across it - if such assistance is needed.

Good-luck, my friend.



Again, many thanks for your help.  As you can imagine, I'm spending a lot of my mental effort thinking about these components and options.  This system is for a second residence I have in Y-STATE, which I travel to weekly so I'll be able to use and appreciate the system regularly.

I found your ideas on staging the buying and choices of these products very useful.  Good news is - no I'm in no rush.  In fact, because I'm doing renovations on my place - I can't really install this equipment until at least the beginning of July.  In addition, I have a current system in the apt. which works fine  - so no rush.  However, with the prospect of returning to vinyl, I am quite excited to get this show on the road and start putting this together.

This is what I'm currently considering.

Thorens TD125II with SME 3009II
Still exploring stylus and cartridge options

Quad 303 amp and restore it.

I'm leaning towards the Doge 8 and replacing the tubes.  I can keep my eye out for a SP-8 over time and try to pick one up someday and compare. If I get it for a decent price - I'm not concerned about resale.  i have a feeling I'd be happy with the Doge 8.

As for speakers - I am leaning towards Tekton Pendragons but I need to speak with Eric and find out if they are appropriate for the space I'll be using them in.  The pair of Altec's built by heathkit are for sale in H-County - near to Y-STATE so I might reach out to the seller and probe that opportunity.  However, I have a feeling that the Tekton might meet my full range of needs better.

Any suggestions on tubes I want to consider for the Doge 8?  Also, are the suggestions you suggested for the cartridge and stylus also appropriate for the Thorens TT I mentioned above or was your suggestion in consideration of the Garrard 401?

I think I'm going to ease my way into the Garrard 401.  See how the Thorens treats me and as I want to upgrade - consider the Garrard and upgraded power amps. Even if I do upgrade - the preamp and speakers should still be appropriate.

I look forward to hearing back from you.



Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 2:45 PM
Subject: Re: System u described

So - it's time for the first decision. Altec Valencia's vs Tekton Pendragons. The guy with the Heathkits (Valencias) will sell to me for $1200. I'm going to go see them and listen to them. The Tektons will be more dynamic but when it comes to realism - I'm not sure how they will compare. Any thoughts? .



I promise not to bug you with a million questions but I'm curious about your thoughts on the following turntable:







Your last question seems more URGENT, so I'll answer this one first. (Don't worry, I'll still respond to your previous e-mail, perhaps at the bottom of this very page).

Let me address the issue in this way: The only Thorens turntables I'd consider to be better than the TD125/126 series are; the (modified) TD124, Prestige, and Reference - all of which are 'reference-level', including the 125 at the lower-end of that 'reference' scale. (There's also an Ambience, but I'm not familiar with it). In my opinion, no other Thorens is as good as the TD125 markII, or TD126, regardless of how new. Here's a link to a site with info about these tts, and more:  http://www.theanalogdept.com/thorens_dept_.htm

The TD316 you indicated is decent, with a decent (Rega) arm, and an OK cartridge, but not up to the standard of a TD125II with SME 3009II arm, in my opinion. However, considering that you may only want a plug-and-play tt to serve for the interim 'til you source and restore your Garrard, then that 316 would certainly serve the purpose as well as any, including other brands and models which are even less expensive.

What's most attractive about the TD125 with SME 3009II arm though, which may also be found in plug-and-play condition, is the arm. Considering that you may later acquire a Garrard which is popularly (but not exclusively) used with an SME 3012 arm (which, itself, could be regarded as a 3009 with a longer arm-wand - tho not quite) it might be cost-effective to attach that 3009 to the Garrard (after the Thorens is re-sold without said arm) and use it in this way while you seek a reputable copy of the 3012 arm-wand and counter-weight. Considering that the SME 3012 now sells for $2000 and above, this route may be very-much more cost-efective.

Here's a thread on the subject:  http://www.audiokarma.org/forums/showthread.php?t=298627

Nevertheless, regardless of whichever tt or any other component you opt for, I'll support you FULLY. And no, you're no bother at all - I've said it before; if you're spending your money based on my say-so, then I have a duty to assist you in any way I can. Yet, I don't just see it as a duty to help - it's a pleasure - contact me any time, and every day if necessary.

[Oh, I should mention that regardless of the belt the 125 comes with, if you do go for any Thorens, try to get the original Thorens belt, eventually. If not, then you may have to endure with the issue, as I do with my own 125, of 'push-starting' the platter on start-up - a minor issue of belt-slippage with common non-genuine belts, solved with the use of the genuine Thorens part.

And, yes, the cartridge suggestions are appropriate for the Thorens too. If you want to also consider moving-coils, not my cup of tea, you may also want to consider the excellent Denon 103 (or similar) a very popular choice which, as I said, isn't among my own favorites. I could also suggest alternative M-Cs if that's your choice, and depending on your budget, since the 'best' of these range from around $3k to over ten-grand]

Regarding the Doge 8, tube rolling is complusory with the older and cheaper $1.5k model, for good performance. However, so far as I understand, the original tubes that come with the improved version, the $2k Doge 8 Clarity, have no such issues . One owner stipulates that highly-reputed Mullards (12AX7 - Sovteks are also probable) were supplied in the line-stage of his recently ordered Doge 8 Clarity, with JAN 12AT7 supplied in the phono-stage. Reportedly, the Doge 8 Clarity, as supplied with these tubes, is great straight out of the box, after burn-in, of course. No need to worry about tube-rolling with this later model - that's always an option, down the road, but not an immediate necessity with this new model.

If you want to raise this issue, or any other, with the distributor, Pacific Valve, here's a link:  http://www.pacificvalve.us/Doge8Clarity.html 

In fact, let me also put you on to an excellent repository of info on all things hifi. Arthur Salvatore's Audio Critique web-zine (a.k.a. High-End Audio.com) has been in operation for at least ten years longer the my own less than 3 year-old WAJ on AUDIO. I'll state up-front that I disagreed with his views on passve pre-amps and speakers, but lately he seems to have been coming around to views more in line with those held here, on these issues, though perhaps not entirely. These issues are discussed in part 1 & 2 of my article linked here; http://wajonaudio.webs.com/The%20Lower-Midrange%20In;%20Speakers,%20Passive%20&%20Active%20Pre-Amps;%28Pt1%29.htm

Regardless of the issues covered in that article, my respect for the gentleman is undiminished, and aside from those issues, and perhaps cartriidges, which I have a duty to point out to my own readers, it is the very best resource I can think of for any audiophile who seeks truly honest and accurate information (leaving WAJ on AUDIO aside, of course). Forget about mainstream magz, for the most part, they really do not operate in the best interest of the audiophile, in general, believe me.

I'll link you now to that site, and directly to the pre-amp page. I'd suggest you go straight to the reader's report on the Doge 8 Clarity at the bottom of that page before you read the rest of the info there. But don't forget to read other articles there. Of particular interest to you should be the turntable essay, and the essay and reader input on vintage amps;  http://www.high-endaudio.com/RC-Preamplifiers.html

Let me know if any of this is helpful. Remember; contact me as regularly as you wish - it's no problem.




Here's a link to a thread discussing the excellent $1k Tekton Lore, and similar but more expensive (not necessarily better) Zu speakers, in general. The$2.5k  Tekton Pendragon is also discussed as the much better option, at one stage;  http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?cspkr&1286073654&openfrom&1&4#1  Note the Tekton Lore may be considered half of a Pendragon (i.e. one 10" mid-woofer, instead of two - I'd recommend the latter). Double-stacking two Lores could also be an option, with the Pendragon's better tweeters. Perhaps you could raise such issues with Tekton too.



[Addressing this statement from a previous post: " I have a feeling that the Tekton might meet my full range of needs better."]  Oh no, X (LOL) Altec Valencias don't play second-fiddle to Pendragons - it's the other way around. Though I haven't heard these Tektons, in particular, the Pendragons are very good, for sure, but a genuine pair of Valencias WILL be better and more realistic (based on my experience with Model 19s). Subjectively, dynamism should be about the same (i.e. excellent) regardless of Tekton's 'on-paper' spec which would suggest a very slight advantage in efficiency. The difference in dynamism, between the two, will be inconsequential - if anything, the Altes should have the real-world advantage there - don't sweat it.

Perhaps you should read all my articles, relative to your interests. But I'll try to indicate, in a nutshell, why a genuine Altec Valencia would be the better choice:

a. The Valencia employs either the Altec 802 compression-driver (or one similar; 806, etc) combined with the Altec 811 horn for mid to high-frequencies. This combination is one of the better combos in existence for such an application. [Much better than that used by the excellent Klipschorn, for example. In fact, Klipschs are often modified by the substitution of this Altec driver combined with the slightly larger clone of said horn, the 511 .] I also now use it, the 811 combo, in my own DIY speaker-system - it's awesome. Many people use it as it is but, depending on your tastes, you may want to augment it with a super-tweeter - a relatively minor consideration we needn't contemplate at this time. And don't be scared by 'horror-stories' about horn-colorations, unless you habitually listen at ear-bleeding levels, I mean really excessive, this is not a factor, in my experience with these horns when properly mounted. And they can easily be dampened even further - no problem there.

b. The Valencia is a 2-way system, so it also employs a mid-woofer. If you've read my articles extensively you'll know that I believe the ideal cone surface-area necessary for a mid-woofer, to replicate lifelike realism, is the equivalent of that of a 15" speaker (i.e. either one driver, or multiples amounting to the equivalent of a 15"er, in surface-area, per channel) ideally. (The Valencia employs a 15"er. The Pendragon employs two 10"ers - equivalent to one 12"er - which amounts to half the surface-area of the ideal 15"er. OK,  but not ideal for truly lifelike realism, in my opinion).

You'll also have noticed that, from experience, I believe that all mid-woofers (even those that meet the 'surface-area' requirement) are not created equal, in terms of their depiction of realistic lower-mids tones and detail. You'll also have noticed that I believe Altec's 414, 416, and 515, mid-woofers are among the vey best of the very few currently available with outstanding abilities in this region. (The Valencia employs Altec's 416 15" midwoofer. The Pendragon employs Eminence 10"ers - good, but certainly not as remarkably outstanding and lifelike as the Altecs, in this critical region.


If you've read my article on the 'Ultimate Speakers...' you'll know that I believe the Altec Model 19 is just slightly shy of those at the very ultimate level in performance - the ultimate state of the art - modifications could even take it pass some of them, and virtually the same goes for the Valencia. The Valencia is actually a very slightly compromised version of the Model 19 (actually preceding the 19, I believe) employing the exact same drivers and a slightly different x-over in a very slightly smaller enclosure (I'd perhaps switch the x-over to that of the 19, eventually). [By the way, here's a link to the threads relating to one of the most knowledgeable guys on the planet, in terms of his experience with many different speakers and speaker-types over more than 30 years. I don't know the fella, but I've grown to respect his views, as have many others. His name is Tom Brennan, and he seems to be the go-to guy at Audio-Asylum for anything to do with speakers. He once owned an A5 system which some rank among the best speakers they've ever heard, and he now runs Model 19s, 605s, and a Heathkit/Altec system, which he feels are not much less potent than his awesome A5, especially his 19, I believe. Here y' go - copy the following into your search-engine, preferably Yahoo: Query: altec, Author: Tom Brennan in High Efficiency Speaker Asylum

So no X, the Valencia is not a step down from the excellent Pendragon - it's several steps up.

However, as with the purchase of any piece of used gear, be very careful. Before you even go to listen to these examples:

a. The seller mentioned that the cones of the 416s were replaced. Ask him to verify whether these cones are genuine Altec replacements, and get him to e-mail copies of the paper-work. The only source for 'genuine' Altec parts today is Great-Plains Audio (GPA). If his replacement cones are not original Altecs, or GPA (i.e. the company which bought the Altec machines, and continue to make Altec parts) then those cones are crap - don't buy them, don't even waste your time in going to listen. If you establish that they're not Altec ar GPA cones and you still want to do a deal, verify with GPA the cost of their cones & installation, and try to get the seller to reduce the price accordingly, based on the fact that you'd be buying them and installing the genuine parts. (I wouldn't bother with the hassle though, especially since there are other alternatives, even within the Valencia market. 1200 bucks is not a bad price, though, considering the cost of the drivers alone - Altecs are not cheap, and justifiably so).

b. The same could apply to the diaphram in the compression-driver, but this is arguably less critical. I wouldn't jeapordize the deal based on that. And since the seller didn't mention a replacement here, they might not have been replaced or, if they were, he may not even know, for sure. In any case, a substitute here may not be too bad, and any correction of this is much more easily effected, if needs be.

OK, so those are my thoughts on that. By the way, didn't you recieve my response to your last two e-mails? In case you haven't, I'll send it again:

Look-out below (LOL)




.Thanks. I'm going to contact seller of the altecs tomorrow . What to look out for is extremely helpful.

Thanks for resending the prior responses. I did not get them originally.

Interesting info on the Doge 8. I will definitely get the upgraded version.

Funny- I found Arthur Salvatore's Audio Critique a few days ago and was intrigued. I will keep reading. No worries - I'm not touching magazines . Just like any other industry the mags are not objective or useful.

I am very much of the attitude that buying things new (except cars for my wife) is a waste of money.

I'm going for the Thorens also.

Done deal - this system is set. I just need to go out and get it.

You see a good / decent  Thorens tt deal out there?


Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 11:35 AM
Subject: Re: System u described

These are the speakers I'm on my way to pick up now. Not sure if these what what you were looking at but I dont see any mention of replacement parts. Seller says its all original, pics included with seriel numbers. I think they look good.




Please listen very carefully. Get the seller to demo those speakers both at your normal listening-levels (they'll be exquisite, here) AND at the loudest levels you're likely to listen at, on a regular basis. There may or may not be issues with the horns at very high levels. Depending on the regularity at which you listen at very high levels, they may or may not suit you.

I admire your quickness of pace, and I recognize that  your 'close' proximity to this seller afforded us the luxury of making him an attractive offer. There's another Valencia at the 'bay with the bid at near 600, with 2 days left. Even if that one sells for 9, 8, or even 700-bucks, we'd still have had to factor in shipping-costs, which could/would still bring it to, or above, the price you're now about to pay. (Nevertheless, you still have the option of watching that other auction for future reference, price-wise. Food for thought? Just thought I'd point-out another angle. Me? I'd simply take this one, if it suits me). Good-luck.

By the way, the info on that other Valencia is what confused me, regarding the cones. I'd initially looked at several speakers, including this one and the one you're after. Thereafter, I'd been speaking about them from memory. So I seemed to have gotten my wires crossed as to which info applied to which, or even exactly what the info was - a minor issue, in the circumstances, you will agree, since all could be verified, as you obviously did. Here's a part of what the ad for this other Valencia actually said:.
806-8A serial 1354 tested 6.8-7.4 ohms
806-8A serial 1351 tested 6.9 ohms
416-8Z serial 5003030767 tested 6.9 ohms
416-8Z serial 5003030767 tested 7.2 ohms
Each 806-8A contains its original diaphragms
Each 416-8Z woofer has cones NO. 21184-3

This (and the context) is what got me wondering as to the authenticity of the cones since it's unusual for cone # to be stipulated unless they're replacements - the serial # of the (Altec) driver is what's usually quoted.

Anyway, it's all moot since this has nothing to do with yours.

Oh, I sent two e-mails about tts to you last night. Please confirm whether you got them. I'll look-up a copy of the last one and re-send it, if necessary. If you really didn't get them, then perhaps  there are issues with my computer, or with the idiot operating it (LOL).



Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 4:45 PM
Subject: Re: System u described

Got them (the Altecs).  They are in my apt.  I listened to them for a while.  They sounded great.  Regarding realism;  I completely understand the definition of the term in describing speakers.  Let me tell you what my impression of these Altecs are:  When I listened to Louis Armstrong on these speakers - it felt like he was actually singing to me - not like I was listening to a good recording of him singing. 

Now that the ball is rolling  - I'm going to get the quad 303 next and shop a tt tonight.

The guy I bought the speakers from had a McIntosh 5100 he sell to me for $350.  Do you have any experience with this amp?  Im going to stick with the Quad 303 and the Doge 8 for now but I'm somewhat curious about this 5100.



Continue to Part 2 


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