Collecting Stereo Gear

You think the stuff on this page is a bit much? Well, look what I've done now:

Everybody needs a hobby, right? Ok, so I have too many. Sorry. :-)

When I was a young child, my parents (well, mainly my father) had a Scott music system. This setup consisted of an amplifier with pre-emphasis settings for all manner of phonographic recording standards (RIAA, NAB, etc.), and various other interesting knobs and switches; a Scott tuner, which had this fabulous tuning "eye" which made two glowing bars come together indicating signal strength; a reel-to-reel; a single (AR?) speaker (it's mono, remember); and a Thorens turntable. The tuner has an option output for a stereo decoder, but is essentially mono - as is the amplifier. It is also beautiful. A golden finish, sharp graphics, just wonderful looking. It was designed to have a wood case, but for some reason, my father didn't get the case... so it just sat there and glowed... Lots of controls...

This gear is all tubes, nary a transistor in sight, never mind an integrated circuit. Much of the music I heard as a child came through this setup - and I was hooked. Or perhaps I should say, ruined. It was certainly this gear that got me interested in electronics. Nothing like the glow of tubes in a dark room, coupled with great sound, to stir an interest in what the tubes were actually doing...

I eventually inherited these components, and (because I was a fool) I gave them away when I had some considerably more modern equipment. Eventually, I came to my senses and went back to the person I gave them to on my figurative knees and got them back. The amplifier had died in the interim (about 20 years) and I had to cobble up a power resistor from spare parts I had lying around. Both the tuner and amp are now alive and healthy, and I'm happy as can be.

It's been a long, long time since I first became interested in music - about 34 years. Over that time, I've purchased a number of audio components in search of great sound, features, and looks. Here's a list that's as complete as my memory allows:

Component Accessories Looks
"Sound Bite" Disposition
Scott 99D Amplifier,
Scott 314 Tuner
Thorens turntable, Reel-to-reel, AR Speaker.
Scott 99D Amplifier
Scott 99D Amplifier

Scott 314 Tuner
Scott 314 Wideband Tuner

About 30 watts (2 6L6's in class AB). These components are one of the reasons the "tubes-over-transistors" crowd has a justification for existing. Scott, along with Macintosh and a (very) few other companies, produced some truly outstanding consumer audio gear during the 50's. I'll say one thing for my dad, however he picked these components, he hit the proverbial nail on the head. Great stuff! (I apologize for the lousy images... I need a better digital camera and/or some better lighting)

In my office.
Technics SA-6000XC quadraphonic Two extended range PA speakers; Sony Playstation; RCA DSS receiver; Panasonic VCR; 13-inch color TV.
Technics SA-6000XC Receiver
Technics SA 6000XC

I used to have another one of these. I lived in Port Jervis, New York at the time in a tiny one-room apartment; the sound was fantastic, and I used to go to sleep at night to pure audio bliss. I sold that unit; but I found another in May, 1998 at the same pawnshop where I found my Marantz 2240 (below). It sounds just the way I remember. It's in perfect shape, and I got it for $60.00, which I consider more than a bargain.

Original sold.

Replacement acting as the sound system for Justin, the resident 17-year old entity.

Pioneer SX-1050 Pioneer speakers, turntable, really nice cassette deck, Sharp component B&W television
Pioneer SX-1050 Receiver
Pioneer SX-1050

A high power system, very nice for its day.

Pioneer SX-1250 Pioneer speakers, turntable, really nice cassette deck, Sharp component B&W television
Pioneer SX-1250 Receiver
Pioneer SX-1250

A very high power system for the time - Nice! 160 watts RMS / channel into 8 ohms. I purchased this to replace the stolen SX-1050, and got more than I bargained for. It was a much better receiver as well as offering considerably higher power.

Recently, I located another SX-1250 on EBay, which I kind of haunt now.

Original sold.

Replacement unit is in the master bath in my home, where it drives a 12 inch passive subwoofer and two small satellites. There's a video monitor in there, and we broadcast the main system on 102.7 FM, so the Pioneer serves as the FM to audio portion of the A/v system in the bath.

Don't laugh. It's fun to have a full system in the bathroom. Plus, if you're constipated, 300+ watts can help. :)

SAE R6 Receiver Tower speakers... nice, but I can't remember the brand; Sony turntable, Teac cassette deck, Technics CD, Graphic EQ.
SAE R6 Receiver
SAE R6 Receiver

A great receiver - medium power, great sound. This thing was near the sliding doors on my patio in south Florida when a torrential rainstorm soaked it. I dried it out, but it was about a week before it would turn on again, and stay on. It survived, but just barely. Probably needed a bath in some solvent.

On lend to my good friend Mike, it finally died in a profound and final way - smoke, flames, and etc. Rest in pieces.
Yamaha A/V VCR, video monitor, two small L & R speakers & a 12-inch parasitic passive subwoofer.
Yamaha Receiver
Yamaha Receiver

Just prior to home theater, this is great gear.

The bedroom sound system.
Pioneer Dolby Pro-Logic Pioneer Dolby Pro Logic laserdisc, VCR, Dual-well cassette, linear tracking turntable, two tower speakers, two surrounds, powered subwoofer, center speaker, C-band satellite system, 28-inch monitor.
This is a nice machine - but in common with the Technics, the controls are kind of poorly thought out. My ex-wife has this entire system, and she really likes it, reasonably enough.
Technics Dolby Pro-Logic I ran this in my living room, same setup as the JVC, below.
Technics Dolby Receiver
Technics Dolby Receiver

500 watts RMS. Zow! But some features were rather poorly thought out. Some "for instances":

  • The remote has no way to select the turntable; but it has buttons for some really obscure things not even on the receiver (VCR controls & etc.).
  • You can't set the level of the surround or center channel speakers except from the rear of the receiver - that's really annoying if your surrounds are not matched, as is the case in my setup.
  • No EQ, just bass & treble.
  • I have a Technics VCR, which is on all the time. It takes the DSS and feeds it thru as the "line" input, so I have to leave it on (I don't mind, I prefer to leave things running anyway.) But... if you pressed the Technic's remote's VCR1 switch, it toggled the power on the VCR, so you are turning it off, which shows an amazingly, totally, completely dumb design decision somewhere.

    FM Specifications
    IHF Usable FM Sensitivity 11.2 dBf / 2 uV
    FM Capture Ratio @ 65dBf 1.0 dB
    Alt. Chan Selectivity 65 dB
    Spurious Response Rejection75 dB
    Image Response Rejection 44 dB
    I.F. Rejection 80 dB
    A.M. Suppression 50 dB
    Stereo Separation 1 kHz 40 dB
    Subcarrier Rejection -35 dB

This sucker ran hot!!! The top was nearly too hot to touch, no matter how quietly it was running. This is one of those receivers with a modulated power supply - they get away with smallish heat sinks because the VDD to the outputs is low until there is a need for high power. Bizarre. I don't like it. But... yeah, I liked the 500 watts RMS, so I guess I'll shut up now. :)

Traded to my friend Bob
JVC Dolby Pro-Logic Two small L & R mains, center speaker, big surrounds, 12-inch parasitic passive subwoofer on the main L & R; pioneer turntable; DSS Satellite system (which is routed via A/V buffer to the bathroom and the bedroom stereos, plus the audio is broadcast on FM 102.7 where I maintain a fully legal low-power stereo broadcast transmitter); 32 inch monitor; Pioneer 100 CD changer; Sony Playstation game system; Technics S-VHS VCR (all video in this system is S-VHS) Dual-well cassette deck, Panasonic DVD deck.
JVC Dolby Receiver
JVC Dolby Receiver

500 watts RMS.

I bought this to replace the Technics (above). This has four sets of S-VHS inputs, and I have three S-VHS sources (DVD, VCR, DSS); the Technics was all composite video. This runs cooler, has a better set of features from the perspective of how we tend to use the living room system, and generally meets my needs at this point.

It has about a 320 watt power supply, so that 500 watts RMS is pretty much an illusion - any channel can make 100 watts, but if there is generally loud material in four or five channels, the receiver will overdraw the supply and sound like junk. Just like the Technics. Someday I'll move to a big dog receiver in the living room that can actually do what it implies it can do, but not until I get a bigger living room...

Update, early 2000: I am using a Technics integrated amp as a subwoofer driver on this system now... that's 180 honest watts RMS to the sub... since the JVC receiver allows you to tell it you're using an active sub, the power it has to distribute to the mid and treble in the other five channels (300 watts or so) is way more than suffcient. This thing will blow you out of the house now, and never mind about getting a more powerful Dolby system. :)

The living room system.
Marantz 2240 Receiver I used to run this in my office, so it had the same setup as the office system stack, below, does now.
Marantz 2240 Receiver
Marantz 2240

You know what's really scary? I got this thing for $20.00 & a display counter I built (worth nothing to me). The 2240 came from a pawnshop, they wanted about $100.00 for it, but they gave me $80 credit for the counter... (laughing maniacally). The FM was seriously out of alignment, which I fixed in a couple of very late-night sessions, and some panel lights were out, which I fixed. I found a place that has both service manuals for it and the panel lights, ordered and received same.

I listened to it for about a year, then the FM stereo decoder IC in it died because I replaced the stereo indicator with a bulb that drew too much current from the IC, and I was stuck with mono FM (which is a big hit, as my audio is piped throughout the house on my own little private FM station at 102.7) Luckily, at about this time, I ran into a Marantz 2285-B (see the next item) and so I simply upgraded the office sound system. I did eventually repair this, and then sold it off (at a steal) to one of my three semi-adopted boys. :-)

Sold to my sort-of-son, Brian.
Marantz 2285b Receiver Advent speakers; Gemini rack-mount CD player; Tascam 202 Mk III rack-mount dual-well cassette; SSM-1000 mixer (used to feed the computer audio and the CD player into the AUX input,) APS-14 FM antenna. The whole system lives in a rack, the Marantz on a rack-shelf. I like racks; check out my music-making setup for more rackage...
Marantz 2285-B Receiver
Marantz 2285-B

This receiver sounded just excellent. It's flexible, reasonably powerful (more than we needed in the office) and it's also, to my eye, quite attractive. Classic, even.

FM Specifications
IHF Usable FM Sensitivity 10.3 dBf / 1.8 uV
FM Capture Ratio @ 65dBf 1.0 dB
Alt. Chan Selectivity 80 dB
Spurious Response Rejection100 dB
Image Response Rejection 90 dB
I.F. Rejection 100 dB
A.M. Suppression 55 dB
Stereo Separation 1 kHz 50 dB
Subcarrier Rejection 70 dB

However... I was extremely lucky to get this unit. Here's the story:

I frequent EBay, an online auctioning site. It's a really neat place, you can find some amazing things up for auction, and the system they use to control the auctions is really very good, all things considered. If someone outbids you, EBay sends you an email immediately, so you can re-bid.

Well, I spotted this Marantz one day and just knew I'd love it to death if I could get it. So, I placed a bid, as the price was absurdly low to start with - under a hundred dollars.

Well, pretty soon it was nearly $200.00, and I was getting a little nervous; I hadn't re-bid, because I didn't want to participate in driving the price up, at least not till the end time for the auction drew near.

About an hour prior to the end of auction, I put in a bid for $225.00. No more bids appeared, and I thought I had it. I set up a bid for considerably more (I would have paid $500.00 for this puppy) and waited without clicking on the "submit bid" button in the browser.

I had my email up and running, and checking once a minute. One minute prior to the end of the auction, someone else outbid me on the unit. About 30 seconds before the auction ended, I got the email notification of this. Egadz!

You know I hit that form button quickly (I had my hand right on the mouse when the email program dinged me). Well, my bid got in with exactly 20 seconds to spare, and I got the unit. The other person and I exchanged a couple of friendly emails about it (in the course of which I learned a few things about bidding on EBay) and within about 5 days I had it up and running here.

This is truly amazing if you consider that all of the following had to happen "just so":

  • My clock was not synchronized with EBay's
  • The other person bid one minute prior to end of auction
  • My email can only check once a minute, max
  • My incoming email goes thru two servers, as I have a domain which is not the same as my local provider
  • My outgoing bid submission had to make it to California within this same minute to win.

So in addition to simply liking the unit just for what it was, I liked it because I very nearly didn't get it. :-)

The office sound system for a while, then I moved up to the Marantz component stack below....
Marantz 2130 Tuner, 300dc Amp, and 3650 Preamp Gemini rack-mount CD player, McKay-Dymeck SW Component, Pioneer RT-1020L Reel to Reel, Furman power conditioners (2), Magnum-Dynalabs Super Sleuth tunable RF Preamp SW-120 subwoofer & LX-5 Linaeum speakers
Marantz Stack
The Marantz Stack-of-Joy

This, as far as I am concerned, is about as good a classic audio system as any person is ever likely to own. The 300dc Amplifier is 150 honest watts RMS per channel, is "DC to daylight" bandwidth-wise, the 3650 preamp has more sonic control than you're ever likely to need, and the 2130 tuner just cleans the competition's clock. The tuning scope is not only fun, it's really useful. There's absolutely nothing that helps point an FM antenna accurately as well as a multipath display on a scope.

So, why the "9" on the features?

Well, it's like this. I can imagine a "perfect" stereo, and it would have a number of features not present in this setup (or any other I've ever seen). So I leave room for someone to do better.

Curious as to what I'd like to see? Click here.

The current office sound system.
Over on the immediate right at the bottom is the antenna that's on the office system. It's an APS-14, a large, 14-element, dual-driven director-only design that pulls in KMHK, a classic rock station 179 air miles away in Hardin, Montana fairly reliably, as you can see at the right top. That's a full quieting signal about 99% of the time. Afternoons, skip does tend to come in and whack KMHK upside the head, but that's actually kind of fun.

If you click on the thumbnail on the bottom, you can see a 4x version of the antenna image. That's my friend Mike on the tower below the antenna. He's six foot even so that should give you an idea of the scale of the antenna against the tower, etc.

I've got an inline coaxial amplifier up by the tower so as to reduce losses in the 50 feet of coax it takes to reach the office system from the antenna position.

The tall pointy antenna above the APS-14 is an AEA "Isopole", a 144-MHz design that is omnidirectional and listens at the horizon level. I use it to catch DX conditions on FM, though it's detuned at 88-108 mhz, it still does a very credible job on the FM broadcast band. I sometimes listen to 2 meter HAM FM & packet also.

179 Mile DX Quality
On Marantz 2285-B
(45% scale, in stereo)

(click for larger image)

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