Been playing around building stereo since 1973. Went bi-amp in '76 and tri-amped a pair of Cerwin Vega 417R with a Phase Linear 400 on bottom, a Harmon Kardon 120 in the middle and a Dynaco 40 on top, crossed over with a Pioneer SF 850 three way electronic crossover.
Nobody in these parts had ever heard of such a thing as multi-amp and the parties I threw were legendary. The Cerwin Vega's were not particularly accurate but very efficient and the SPL's I could cleanly generate had no peer. The turntable was in place where it logically belonged on the equipment cabinet but it hung from the ceiling on a platform suspended by four chains, to damp the parasitic oscillation feedback that otherwise at high volumes would grow until the room shuddered! Ah, but it was a phase.
Somewhere there's a pic of that old setup.
I won't bore anyone with a history of the various incarnations my sound system assumed.
But up until last December I had what I now call the 'wall of aluminum', housed in an old telephone company server rack cabinet with a smoked plexi door, that I had a body shop paint black. There was a time when I sought to have an all 19 inch rack mount system. Go figure.
This tower of gear drove my Infinity Kappa 9's via vertically bi-amped Carver PM1.5a's and the rear speakers, Infinity Q-2's were driven by another Carver PM 1200. Crossover was a dbx 234 and preamp duties were handled by my good old reliable Pioneer Spec 1 that I bought new in '78. Here's a shot of the behemoth.
For a subwoofer, just out of the image to the bottom in the photo above, sat a Phase Linear 700B that I used one channel thereof to drive an ElectroVoice Patrician 30" speaker housed in a massively built replica of its original folded horn enclosure, that I hid in the open-to-the-room loft!(in the corner of course) I'm not making this stuff up. It's still up there, not in current use. Man that is one horking big speaker.
But last fall I came to a catharsis. I reasoned that here it is, I have a powerful and greatly impressive sound system that could rock out with the best and that still sounded great, but it's versatility was almost non-existent. I have a 58" plasma TV, but for surround sound I relied on a cheap-ass Sansui piece of shit from Costco, the big impressive K9's sat there silent. No HDMI, no surround capability, no Dolby nada.
And the K9's really needed more current than the PM1.5a's could give, 600 WPC rating or not. They just aren't a high current amp. Boy, they'd have kicked ass on those 417R's wouldn't they? But on the K9's they were just too brittle. The difference between music content that started the VU lights flicking up the scales, and that where music with a broad dynamic range made the amps run right up into protection on the outrageously low impedence load that the K9's are at certain frequencies, made listening to music at spirited levels an excercise in caution.
Constantly keeping an eye on gain meters, and always designating part of one's attention to the task of ensuring that what one listens to doesn't blow things up, detracts from the music listening experience.
Anything that was loud enough to start the meter lights moving could, in loud passages, send them off the end.
And the rest of the stuff on the Wall of Aluminum?
- The tuner on top, hardly ever used it.
- The cassette deck, Pioneer CT1250... those old pigs with their impressive blue sequential VU scales all had flawed transports. The spool takeup mechanism consisted of a belt that was designed to slip in it's pulleys, and within months the belts always hardened and slipped too much, so that the fast forward and rewind became useless and except for the very loosest tapes the takeup would fail on Play, causing the transport to cut out and fall. Needed new belts every two months if you wanted a good tape deck. Dickheads, designing such crap on their flagship tape machine.
And how often would I want to play a cassette? Hardly ever.
- The reel to reel. There was an old party fave! RT 707, the auto reverse one.
But I hardly ever used it anymore except to wow people that it really worked and music played when these reels slowly looped around. But as a practical tape based music delivery model it sucked. Heck, VHS Hi-Fi has far better S/N and speed control than those old beasts, and you can get one of those in trade for a large bag of dog food, just about anywhere. Open reel tape is so passe'. An anachronism.
Besides, my collection of 7 1/2 inch per second 7" open reel tapes is now so old that when you try to play them the magnetic oxide weeps off the tape and accumulates on the head like mud on a gumboot. Tape technology and a hardy tape medium of the type that was later seen on VCR's, didn't exist then.
Don't need the reel to reel, really, or the cassette deck or the tuner. So all in all the top 21 inches of the wall of aluminum was just for show.
Then to boot, I'd come around to the idea that despite the way I once thought about such things as stacks of equipment, the big black monolith of audio gear was really not very nice to have in ones living room. I don't mean that a big sound system doesn't belong in a living room, heaven forbid! I haven't gone THAT crazy! Just that I began to think that more acreage and more knobs and dials don't necessarily mean better looking. (I have similar ideas about the female breast too. More doesn't mean better. Ow! Stop throwing things!)
The big black tower just started to look too industrial and foreign to a civilized room.
It looked less like furniture than like something you remember seeing apes dancing around in the movie version of Arthur C. Clark's 2001, A Space Odyssey.
I needed to get with the program, make my sound system look nicer, sound better, and become useable for movies and not just for belting out Pink Floyd's 'Time' at enough volume to scare you out of your chair or to imagine one is in a massive Gothic cathedral during the Baroque period and J.S. Bach has pulled out most of the speaking stops in his richest rendition of The Great Fugue.
Mind you it was cool to make the helicopter in The Wall sound like it's coming through the roof. "STAND STILL LADDIE!"
It was time to modernize.
So I 'tore down the wall' (of aluminum) and got to work. Bought a TGP-5 and a TGA 400-7 and retired the Spec 1, and I made a built-in cabinet of oak located where the monolith had stood.
Had to have a turntable box in it (which I haven't put an oak back plate on yet, but it's coming) with a light. Can't let the vinyl go, I have too much and it's pristine.
There's a Carver SD/A 390t CD, a dbx 4bx, and a spot for media player and hard drives.
The dbx 234 is still crossing over the k9's, bi-amped. The PM 1200 at the bottom is on the rear surrounds, just until a 600-2 should come my way and occupy that nice shelf under the 400-7 that's waiting for it. Then the 600-2 will go on the k9 lowers, and the rear surrounds will go back where they belong, on the borrowed 400-7 channels now used for the k9 bottom end.
The shelves are built at a 30 degree angle to the room not only so that the equipment better faces the common seating area but so that the back end and connections of the equipment can be accessed through that removable panel. Since it's built in, gotta be able to get at the wiring.
There is a main house foundation support directly beneath the cabinet and the whole thing is sturdy enough that I can shoulder check the cabinet fairly hard and the stylus of the turntable does not even skip a track! Dancing doesn't bother a record, it tracks as though it's on the rock of Gibralter. A dedicated 30 amp service provides line current.
The K9's are still the prime movers and lower bass than they like is taken care of with a Carver EQ 12. Side surrounds are InfinitEsimals and the rear surrounds are the Infinity Q-2's.
And now I have a kickass surround system! Movies are awesome. And it looks decent in the room, not like a radio station.
- Still need a good center speaker though.
- And a Carver 600-2
Because it never really ends, does it?