I’ve gradually been working on upgrading my stereo system.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I’m moving away from Home Theater and back to where I belong: vinyl two-channel stereo.
It’s where I began my journey into hi-fi back in 1977 while in the Navy. One day, while I was in Radioman school in San Diego, I went out to a stereo store just to look around and walked out with my first stereo system. I had a Yamaha natural sound receiver, a Dual turntable, and a pair of Polk Audio Monitor 7 loudspeakers. (Not owning a car then, I’m at a loss as to how I got that stuff back to my barracks dorm room).
To this day, I still think those were the best sounding speakers I’ve ever owned. Now I understand sound memory and how you tend to color things with your emotions, but everything I’ve read seems to indicate those were some damned fine speakers and possibly the best Polk Audio ever put out.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Anyway, over the last few months I’ve been upgrading pieces, starting with the source end of things. I had a Technolink TC-753LC phono preamp (that’s an amplifier that boosts the weak signal that comes from your turntable into something your receiver can use. Now I’ve heard a lot of good things about the TC-750LC phono preamp, but I found that none of those applied to this one. This one hardly boosted the signal enough for my receiver to use and I had to crank the volume up inordinately high and the sound was still barely there. Plus, there was a horrible background hiss.
So that was the first piece I swapped out. I got a used Graham Slee Gram Amp 2 Special Edition. The difference was night and day. The hiss was gone and it boosted the signal significantly better than the Technolink did. For equivalent sound levels from the speakers, I used to have to crank my receiver to -10db and with the Graham Slee, I only had to crank it to -22db.
And the sound was full and open, giving a much wider sound stage.
Next, I replaced the cartridge. The old one was very old. I couldn’t even find a replacement stylus for it. It was an Audio Technica AT-4414S. Since I did like the Audio Technica house sound, I stuck with them and picked up a new AT440MLB. If I thought the phono preamp improved the sound, this cart really made the music come alive! I could hear highs like cymbal crashes that I’d been missing all this time.
As far as my turntable and receiver, I’m still happy with both. The turntable is a vintage AR XA and it still plays beautifully. The receiver is a Marantz, and even if it’s a home theater receiver instead of a true stereo receiver, it is very nice. Maybe one day, I’ll try to pick up a vintage tube amp or something, but for now, the Marantz stays.
And I just won the missing piece off of eBay. Yes, I am waiting patiently now for my pair of Polk Audio Monitor 7A loudspeakers to be delivered.
Then, I’ll be happy. Or as happy as one can be in this hobby.