28 October 2001
After listening to the Fishers over a year, I decided to build my own amps.
I was sure I should build push-pull 6550C, but, a small hint of humility led me to build simple 6BM8 SE from a design on www.svetlana.com. I first met Eric Barbour via e-mail while building these simple amps. My knowledge base was tiny and my enthusiasm vast. Eric managed to get me thru to working amps.
I attended the first Vacuum Tube Valley magazine Tube School in June of 1997 in San Francisco. I met Eric for the first time and also John Atwood. I enjoyed the class and when they brought it here, to Phoenix, I took it again, and brought my amp.
Eric listened and was very supportive. Others at the class were less enthusiastic. Some feel beautiful sound requires pretty equipment. Sigh, not for me.
The second Practical Tube Audio class was here in Phoenix in November 1997. I had just returned from a business trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Business was great, but, I had a terrible cold, which progressed to CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). Briefly, I have very low blood profusion in my left frontal lobe, both temporal lobes and visual cortex. No treatments help.
Being bedridden, for the first year or so I only purchased tubes, no building circuits, from Antique Electronic Supply. As I learned to live with not much brain activity, I learned to build circuits. It has been great therapy. I have to plan carefully in small steps to ensure success. And the music was and is wonderful. I was not able to watch TV or read, so it was a welcome pastime. After four years, I can now watch TV several times a week. Reading is still only email and magazines ... and schematics!
The pictures show my current system. The Sony 200 CD changers now have many more fine capacitors than new units. I am very pleased with the improved sound. The Pioneer PL-41 has a NOS Audio-Technica arm and a Grado cartridge. The Harmon-Kardon Citation IV has fresh caps and outboard power supply. It has a very good phono stage. I use 12AX7LPS for the line stage and tone controls and Sylvania 12AX7 in the phono section. My amp is 45 SE driven by 6N1P via IT from ElectraPrint in Las Vegas. If my health improves, I would like to visit Jack Illiano. My OPT are ubt2 from one-electron, John Atwood's company. John visits a few times a year and always has a good suggestion or two. The 45 is biased by two each 6X5GT diodes in series. The idea came from Steve Bench, on the Joe List. This gives wonderful sound. I had a 6AS7 wired diode (grid to plate) but John noticed the top end was 'polite' and suggested I remove the 6AS7 and put a battery under the grid choke. He was right, of course. The cabinet is an antique former radio/phono.
My speakers are 80 Hz ehorns with special TD15M drivers from Lambda acoustics. Dr. Bruce Edgar and Nick McKinney worked together to spec them. I have the only pair so far.
The 300 Hz ehorns have Fostex FE164. The black metal horns are from Taiwan. They were imported by The Speaker Works here in Phoenix, which has since closed.
I build circuits and speakers in bed, or on bed. Some big pieces get cut on the patio in back. I spend 95% listening and 5% trying new ideas. It is a very rewarding hobby.
One important lesson: Never solder
Al's comments about his System:
AA: "Al, how would you describe your system's sound?"
AM: "Like the nickname for New Orleans: "The Big Easy". The ehorns driven by the 45 SE create a huge image in my 9' x 18' room. The latest speaker addition, last April, of Lambda Acoustics TD15 in 80 Hz ehorns brought the bass in. Dr. Bruce Edgar and Nick McKinney worked together to spec the drivers. I may have the only pair! Double bass and big drums now sound as effortless as flutes and bells, simply part of the music. I listen many hours a day. I only shut the system off to roll tubes or try a new circuit. Or if we leave town. "
AA: "Do you think there is room for improvement?"
AM: "Always. Once I stop making progress on one portion of the system, I start on another. I am now 'thinking about' an arm board to allow using an NOS Audio-Technica tonearm on my old Pioneer PL-41 TT. And there is a LOT of work to be done on the listener, but, I will, no doubt, save that for later."
AA: "Have you got plans for upgrading?"
AM: "I plan to
upgrade, or try to upgrade, everything. I am still finding
more sound in small changes. I am a long way from what I
suspect is possible. There is no hurry, no urgency, just