Heard a vintage Hi-Fi system and am thankful....

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Mike Up, Apr 9, 2003.

  1. Mike Up

    Mike Up Second Unit

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    for updated technology.

    The system was owned by a friend of my father and was very proud of it.The system was compromised of vintage equipment dating somewhere from 1955 to 1966.

    Fisher preamp with built in phono preamp.

    Harman Kardon Tube stereo power amp(100+ watts?)

    Electro Voice speakers: 3-way with 15" woofer, horn midrange and horn tweeter. Horns are folded. Physical size is HUGE being about 4' wide, 3 1/2' deep and about 3' high.

    London Phase-4 Albums on unknown turntable.

    The owner was extremely proud of this system and was eager to show to me. I was expecting to hear something fabulous. To my surprise, this system offered the worst sound I've heard from ANY system, including my JVC jambox. I just couldn't believe this system sounded so bad.

    This sound was irritating and made my skin crawl. This was the first time I ever found myself grinding my teeth from such irritating sound.

    For such huge speakers with huge woofers, they had absolutely NO bass. The high treble was none existent but the high midrange and low treble were very loud, being so screechy that my ears actually were hurting.

    This system was very loud and resembled the loudness output of a professional sound reinforcement system. The sound however was thin, screechy, and very fatiguing.

    The owner was the proudest of the imaging which I thought was only mediocre compared to budget systems I've heard. The imaging and the soundstage were the strong points of this system, although those points were weak by my judgment.

    I think if the owner ever upgraded to this decade's equipment, he would soil himself over the performance of todays equipment.

    The HK tube amp was the only component in the system that really caught my attention. The amp was huge with about 12 tubes. 6 very large ones sitting on the very top and 6 smaller tubes sitting on the next lower level.

    The preamp had oxidation in it's control knobs but the HK tube amp was said to have never needed a tube replacement, which I thought was incredible. These component are all very old.

    I guess I just had to share my experience as it made such an impression on me, in the negative way unfortunately.

    I think the performance down falls were directly related to the speakers. Not sure how the HK would sound fitted in a more modern system today.

    Have a good one.
     
  2. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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  3. Brett DiMichele

    Brett DiMichele Producer

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    A vintage system of this caliber in the hands of a smart
    vintage owner will hardly sound like what you describe at
    all.

    My guess is that the cap's in the amps were bleeding something
    terrible and the tubes were bad and lord knows how bad the
    speakers were since they also have inductors and cap's that
    are prone to leakage over the years.

    If all this vintage stuff was restored to current new condition
    with all audiophile components and such it should be nothing
    short of spectacular.
     
  4. Mike Up

    Mike Up Second Unit

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    Lance,

    What you say is probably true. The speaker's surrounds were fine as they had their surrounds replaced.

    The oxidation that was on the preamps volume control is something that I commonly find on older receivers, preamps. Sometimes I can get the pots clean of this oxidation, other times I can't. However, the quality was never degraded to such a degree by the oxidation. I've heard worn stylus' also, and never such a degree of degradation.

    However, I get so caught up into the solid state theory, I forget about that tubes can wear out without outright failing. So the amp probably left a negative signature on the music. When I say bass shy on these speakers, I mean no bass below about 100Hz or maybe even higher. I have Infinity bookshelf speakers with 5 1/4" woofers that go down to 75Hz -3db that have much more bass than these huge Electro Voice speakers with 15" woofers.

    As far as amp power, I thought tube amps usually only went around 50 watts at their high end but he stated something over 200+watts. The speakers no doubt had an efficiency of over 100db @ 1 meter which more than made up for any shortcomings in power output, as you stated.

    I guess what I found extraordinary about this event, is that the owner felt he had the best system out there and bragged about it's performance. It was just a shock. My dad after listening to my system and even his own, chuckled under his breath. I don't think it was at his friends system, but at the fact he bragged it up so much where we expected something with quite the opposite in performance.

    Of course, we just agreed how great it sounded. We didn't want to hurt his feeling obviously. He enjoyed it and that's all that counts.

    Have a good one.
     
  5. Mike Up

    Mike Up Second Unit

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    Brett,

    Your most likely right, but if everything did need to be replaced, wouldn't the cost be better used on new equipment? There's be a lot of performance progression in speaker technology and even new amp technology(whether it be tube or solid state).

    Since I'm not into tube amps, I don't know what tubes cost now a days. Since tubes aren't common place, I can only think they would be pretty expensive. With 12 tubes needing replaced, that could be a small fortune. Then add in the cost of audiophile caps and other parts that may have lost their tolerance over the decades, one has to ask, is it even worth it. If your a collector, then I could see in restoring these components but as a person whose only interest is getting the best performance for a price, I would think new components would be the way to go.

    It seems that you and Lance are familiar with these components and their sonic signatures. Maybe the owner still has their original performance embedded in his mind and doesn't seem to notice the degradation that's taken place over the years.[​IMG]

    Have a good one.
     
  6. Brett DiMichele

    Brett DiMichele Producer

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    Mike,

    Since I don't know this guy I have no idea about his level
    of knowledge on vintage components. But it stands to reason
    if it sounded that bad then he probably had bad capacitors,
    tubes and more going on.

    Why buy vintage? Nostalgia, Collectability etc.. Some of
    the vintage Fisher Receivers are on the same level as
    vintage McIntosh and Marantz (both highly reguarded vintage
    gear) The best Fisher Tuners and Amps will bring thousands
    of dollars in primo restored condition same goes for the
    latter companies I mentioned.

    As for the Speakers I have no idea what's going on there.
    The AV15's make tremendous bass that is accurate so I dare
    to say something is seriously wrong.. (Again I suspect the
    tubes here..)

    Yep tubes are pricey.. If you buy "Audiophile" quality new
    tubes like those offered by ElectroHarmonix you can spend
    as much as $500.00 per tube and NOS (New Old Stock) Gold
    Lion, RCA, Tung-Sol and GE's can easily cost that much as
    well (Depending on Model and date of manufacture and even
    the condition of the box they come in).

    Vintage gear of that level can easily compete with what's
    out there today in the very upper echelon of "high end" but
    you will spend as much if not more to get into good quality
    vintage gear so some choose to go the new route.. And then
    there are others that just DIY everything including thier
    own amps built from legendary well known amplifier topology
    schematics.
     
  7. Yogi

    Yogi Screenwriter

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    I'd blame it on the speakers because I have a friend that builds speakers and uses EV bass drivers and the bass from those speakers could drive nails thru the walls. Its that powerful. I bet those speakers are really old with their rubber surrounds deteriorated and rattly. God knows what deterioration is on their mid bass and high freq drivers. I think thats where you are getting that grainy sound. The next culprit IMO is the tube amp with the old tubes. Tubes get noisy with age and can give a grainy sound. Corrosion in the leads and pins can also give poor signal transfer and be a source of noise.

    I think you heard a vintage system in a very vintage condition.
     
  8. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    As has become the consensus here I also have to say that if this equipment were in pristine shape the system should sound quite good.

    Some speakers from this era—most notably, such electrostatics as the original Quads, Jenzsen, Hartley, KLH, etc.—would hold their own very well today.
     
  9. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    I quite agree Jack and I don't think maintenance would really amount to all that much...even a total tube replacement is pretty nominal...that is, unless you don't want it to be.
     
  10. Scott Oliver

    Scott Oliver Screenwriter

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    Yeah tubes aren't too expensive especially if you buy current production models. If you buy NOS then depending on the availablility they could be way up there in price.
    Guessing that his amp was KT-88's or something similar. You can get a quad of Electro-Harmonix KT-88's for $115 or so so x3 and he could retube the power output tubes for $345.
    I think this gentleman just needs to invest in refurbishing his gear with new parts and I bet it would be much better. All his components are very nice, and highly regarded. Too well regarded for all of the vintage lovers to all have bad ears. Today, you couldn't buy a pair of Electro-Voice Patricians on EBAY for under $2000 if they are in good condition.
     
  11. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Not to say about the bad ears of the people 'designing' amps and speakers!
    There's definitely gold in some of that older stuff. During the summers, i'll take a drive past the various garage sales and see what's laying out on the lawns. Never know what someone's selling for fractions of pennies on the dollar. The same holds true for passing by thrift shops, pawn shops, legitimate estate auctions, and various old electronic repair places.
     
  12. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    I have vivid memories of the mono Hi-Fi system my dad built in 1956 or so. It was mono as stereo was just over the horizon. Heathkit pre-amp and FM tuner and 30 watt amp, with Miracord record changer. The speaker was an EV with 15" woofer and horn midrange and little 3" horn tweeter.

    This thing sounded fully as good as any modern system I've heard.

    I don't have the time, patience, or money to restore this kind of stuff now, but can vouch for the fact that when new is was truly amazing to listen to and fully up to modern standards as far as sound quality.
     
  13. Michael R Price

    Michael R Price Screenwriter

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    It's likely a capacitor, tube, potentiometer or other electronic component (in the crossover or amplifier) was damaged. Repairing the surrounds on those big woofers might not have been enough...
     

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