Vintage and Modern combo setups-

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Vintage and Modern combo setups-

Postby Raf » Sun Dec 13, 2009 7:28 am

Another super quiet night in Lipa,IM ON XMAS BREAK...been putting this together for the last 2 or three days...just musing really...wanted to think out lod as it were...

Another ultra quiet night to think about my collection of gear and all the combos I've gone through...

I cant, in the quiet and stillness of my farm, help but analyze and really enjoy the many ways all my gear, my collection of modern and vintage tubes, classic equipment can be combined to modern (or recent production) gear to achieve optimal performance (to my choosey ears) ...SOMEHOW, THEY REALLY COMPLIMENT EACH OTHER...REALLY....

Its too quiet here in this farm...the stillness of this place place is conducive to analyzing what session I most enjoyed and the gear combinations i used during that time. its so conducive to remembering what works best...boredom and audio deprivation will do that to any hobbyist...

it makes me reflect on the sound that transported me... the quiet makes me replay my various setups mentally and emotionally...without any of the the equipment performing or pumping away as I write my thoughts...for me, its best to reflect on performance while away from the system. ...its the best way to recall what I enjoyed the most. Being away from my music room (parang Hogwarts) of assorted gear combinations from eras past and ears present, I can close my eyes and remember what Combos produced the most pleasure and satisfaction....the most disembodiment...

It makes me happy about some of my combos...proud, too. Proud in achieving a sound that really made me feel like I have gotten somewhere...sound that made me feel proud of my my efforts and learning over the years. Being away from my music room is like a retreat to allows me an opportunity to reflect on my audio journey...to love and appreciate my gear and how the many components can works together to produce music that pleases me, music delivered to me the way I think it sounds best!! Absence makes the heart grow fond.

We all have budgets, we all have dreams. We all have gone through countless combinations, tuition fees, upgrades, trade-ups...we have all crawled on the floor and perspired litres and gallons of bodily fluids to hook up or arrange, organize, beautify our collection of stuff (thats what women call it...STUFF!!!), We have all had to to hoist colossal amplifiers unto platforms and stands that we think will optimize performance, we've all had to undo the tangled octopus of interconnects...cables, powercords.. compliance matching and switching silver and copper to fighter-plane grade wiring ...our painstaking efforts to combine components from front end to back...the slipped discs, the painful knees...the galit ng asawa....all for our quest for audio bliss.our toil and hard work and expenditure of hard earned money...

Well...I'm going to write about what combos I find work best together... hope my experience proves interesting and entertaining...and maybe even somewhat instructional to those new to the journey.

Speaking from my own personal approach and collection only- the following thoughts to share and open to criticism and as always.

I find that a synergy is best discovered through a combination of vintage amplifiers from golden era push pull amps with the purest metals...with various legendary vintage tubes or modern replicas COMBINED WITH new new, high performance gear... pre-amps, front ends, and matching speakers either vintage or speakers equipped with the best available state of the art materials (new developments in speaker materials, to me, are the single most progressive area in audio technology) ...but always, I like musical speakers..not technically analytical speakers...not pin-drop accurate speakers, not larger than life speakers that over-qualify in acute detail straining the range of human auditory senses) BUT musically voiced, soul-filled speakers, artful and subjective...for exaple, British sound of Spendors and Harbeths or Guarneris or Von schweikerts, or ESLs,... in all their models. I (my opinion only) find push pull vintage (1950-70s) tube amps provide the most natural, warm, engaging reproduction and deliver. I found that they truly work well with modern LSAs, ESLs, large monitor type horn and paper combo speakers from the 80s (JBs) or newer even newer types such the ProAcs, Triangles, VRs and the great over achiever, the LSA's and even the cutting edge VR...yes even the floorstanderss.

Im not really going to list down specific vintage /modern equipment combos as the major goal here...only sharing as examples, really. I want to stress how vintage and modern equipment work so well together...the SYNERGIZE and that they produce an extremely surprising and sometimes very pleasurable results . This is not about brands or tubes or SET VS PushPull, its about modern mixing with vintage...hope you enjoy!!!!

The Benz Micro SilverCartridge- An MC Cart with an MM level output....think of this....A modern day MC detail hooked up to an MM tube phono-stage of a Conrad Johnson....full spectrum cutting edge transducer technology (although only at 300 US$-mid priced but with superb swiss technology) precision action warmed up by vintage tubes...can you picture how this could balance things out...

This idea of old working with with new is rally far from original its just that I'V ENJOYED IT SO MUCH...I've really followed on that path in search for Synergies...There really are so many solid state/tube hybrids...so many re-issues its a well known fact.

My respected friend Jovy (old foggey) is convinced that aside from digital technology and DACs, nothing has really, really essentially changed technologically since the 1940s. Perhaps the electronic process of reproductions has remained largely constant...but I cannot help but disagree with my friend, with all respect and affection to my audio uncle, Jovy. Many technological advances in materials.. new alloys, speaker surfaces, electronic processing imagery, cabling alloys...just so many advances...but perhaps he is right in terms of musicality. As Jovy, as himself as an individual, he assesses his preferences, he finds that the early technology was of the best possible quality and much to his liking. I respect his opinion but I differ when faced by the immense R&D in our hobby. However, When I read audio magazine publications, I cannot help but agree with Jovy..Much of the technology is the same shit in a different packaging...pitched differently at the reader...meant to impress...hard sell, soft sell...Truly, though, negligible changes in technology but more on just voicing. But, really, lots of advances in materials, especially in speakers.

So, to Vintage and modern equipment combos...some exapmles...I wish I could discuss High end VPIs, ClearAudios, Mark levinsons...etc...but I'm not in that market...and I just want to share the Sunshine On My Love...my happy hobby... at my own level of audio gear...Cheers to the high end boys!!!! So glad you take the time to share your rare equipment with me....however...gotta stick to what I know well...just my own equipment :)


Front End Combos:

Cud we respectfully skip ipods, pls...

How about hooking up that Benz Micro Silver (circa 2003) a pinpoint sharpshooter analytical cartridge...dare I say a poor man's clear audio (I welcome debate) with a circa 1971 SME 3012...the speed of the modern Cartridge put through this clasic tonearm changes things...the sound of the Benz Micro is, to me, observably gentled and paced, and painted with soul and character and perspective by the vintage SME [the legendary copper wired 12 inch, mellow, vintage, approach and charm of the SME...Benz Micro accuracy and range combined with natural decay and musicality from the SME?

How about a 1950s mellow, steady, and sonorous, silky, timber filled workhorse, the Thorens TD 124 (broadcast reference quality, 1950s-1960s)...BUT...think of this matched with a masterful, stiff, unyielding, unforgiving, lush, detailed, and musical but unforgiving and accurate late 1970s Fidelity Research 64 arm (in my opinion, one of the bestestestest arms ever)...Old table, new Tone arm...a cooperation and synergy, clearly! Wonderful and complete output...awesome!!!...This combo can really nail you to your seat (IMHO) I have this combo...it a lot of fun!!!!

The you get the Pie in the SKY Vintage EMT turntable...used in recording Laboratories and broadcasting...used when sound recording technicians wore lab suits and spoke english and not EBONICS...This table is Finicky!!! allowing only a select number of tonearms: Ortofon Arms, EMT arms or Fidelity Research arms, you have a turntable table that will simply not synergize with too many tonearms or cartridges at all. I've only hear it play well with Ortofon Carts and Denon 103ds not 103rs...hardcore vintage yet unsurpassed, as far as I am concerned!!! best turntable I've heard...ever...in my opinion....Its just magic...the rig is as ugly as a meat slicer in a grocery ...but it sounds awesomeEST I cant explain just yet.

How about a mellow mellow Dynaco Mark IV perked up by a set of modern speakers (in my case the LSA 1s). Speakers that help enhance or assist or emphasize the the upper and lower spectrum of frequencies (so lacking in the typical EL34) lending the amp some punch beyond the normal expected output of midrange rich EL34 Mullards? So now, EL34 warmth and musicality helped allong in the low bass and high tweeter sections...

I even even even seem to remember Jack D excitedly using vintage rectifiers on his cutting edge Lamm system...wonderful improvement...1950s mullard tubes, 2008 equipment!!!

How about using modern cryo-treated peanut tubes as input tubes on a vintage pre-amp to clean up the input sound and reduce muddiness?

Also, The VPI, top of the line turntables and ultra high end nightingale arms sound beautiful BUT with a retro Koetsu to add soul and timber to the ultra high tech turntable and space age tonearm...Heard at Jack Ds...Also, In PaoloP's setup, I have heard a 1980 cutting edge Dynaco tonearms play a modern Clear Audio Cart wonderfully!!! 80s tonearm tech and 2007 German Catridge tech...Awesome!!!

An what about the new CD players armed with tubes...another piece of strong evidence of synergy between old technology and new.

Pre-amps-

i don't really have enough experience in solid state preamps..actually I am only familiar with a few brands: Lamm Hybrids, Conrad Johnson, Audio Research, Dynacos, Eicos, Harman Kardons, Marantz, and some other tube based Japanese brands...but really I know only tube driven types. This said, i cannot truly discuss modern pre-amps to vintage amps at all. I do realize that the Pre-amp central and directive to both the system and it output quality. However, is suspect the same...there is still a vintage to modern synergy to be had, given a few experiments.

But the trick I found in my own collection and experience is really quite simple. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of certain components...speed, detail, soundstage, frequency range and other characteristis.. PRAT, smooth digital delivery, musicality, warmth, analytical, unforgiving, endearing, taba, payat, etc. and the match the components to compliment the weaknesses along the chain.

Of course, this canbe done with pure modern or pure vintage setups...but when you get both types to work together...its not just a pleasure...it's a reak achievement!!!! And its fun, and you can brag about it and wow your buddies at how you arrived at this

I havn't really gone into power supply, isolation line conditionitng, speaker cables and interconnects...ther does not seem to be any era or period type combos here, really. However, I would follow along the same thinking where the accessories and cabling shuold somehow enhance (to your taste) the inherent weaknesses in the combos as described above.
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Re: Vintage and Modern combo setups-

Postby pigdog » Sun Dec 13, 2009 12:24 pm

hey raf, been a while since we heard from you. likewise i have no issues with Push/pull as my second setup is a pair of vintage LEAK tl25+ monoblocs and it is a combo of old and new. this lovely pair of LEAKS uses KT66 and at 25 w/channel it mated beautifully with my modern pair of Voce Divinas and this is a digital setup, no cds as the music is all from my Squeezebox and the DAC was a DIY that SNZ modified. likewise the mix between the best of the old and new is always the best combination, actually second setup is a mix of old and new and DIY these push/pull leaks were able to drive the 92db voces without any effort. now that you mentioned it, i may want to setup my vintage leak 12.1s again as i have not used it in months
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Re: Vintage and Modern combo setups-

Postby dimfer » Sun Dec 13, 2009 12:43 pm

wow, great post Raf and interesting topic indeed. responding to this thread reminded me of one karaoke sessions we hosted a few years ago. Once in a while, we would invite friends and family to our house for a birthday celebration or something, like most Filipino house parties here in Edmonton, after most of the food had been consumed and the effect of alcohol had convinced even the most marginally talented singers like yours truly that making music is that easy, we enjoy the rest of the evening doing karaoke. One night, we made the mistake of letting my friend Dodo render the opening number, followed by my cousin Irene. After the two did their obligatory first songs, nobody else would dare touch the mirophone. You see, Dodo is a very good singer, having opened for many Filipino artists like Gary Valenciano, Martin Nievera etc during their gigs here in our city. And my cousin Irene is also a very good singer on here own right, she grew up winning many singing competitions, and making part time living as a singer at a popular fine dining restaurant. They spent the rest of the evening taking turns at singing, and doing duets. It was a different experience but was immensely enjoyed by everyone. The calibre of your writing is right up there with Dodo's singing, and now followed up by the impression of my idol pigdog, a similar one two combination. Intimidating indeed

Like you and most of the forumers here, I had my own share of experimentations, some with great result and while I would call my batting average relatively good, thanks to the sulsultants, I also had my own share of failures too. I could unconditionally say that I am very happy with what I have and the itch of upgrade is completely gone (at the moment).

Heck, what am I doing at this thread, I have nothing to contribute when it comes to combination of modern and vintage equipment. After going this far, I just realized that I am enjoying them concurrently but not in combination with each other. In my analog, I decided to go vintage - Garrard 401, Audiocraft & Fidelity Research tonearms with old Ortofon Mc 20 mk2 cart. Well, my other cart is DV10x5 and my phonostage was designed by Mang Rod in 2008, so I guess they will also qualify as a combination of old an new. This analog rig allowed me to thoroughly enjoy the music Rod Stewart, ACDC, Bob Seger, Elton Johns etc of my younger days. And when I listen to the likes of City and Color, Madeline Peyroux, Colby Caillat and Jack Johnson - I rely on the newest and emerging technologies - the Nova Physics Memory Player and Modwright modified Transporter. And then again, the MWTP is an excellent marriage of the old and the new, streaming technology and relatively new dac chip working beautifully with vintage Tungsol roundplates/Mullard ECC33.

and man, when you find a good match, heaven.
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Re: Vintage and Modern combo setups-

Postby JackD201 » Sun Dec 13, 2009 5:02 pm

I came across a hilarious quip in a recording engineer forum by a guy referring to vintage microphones, mic-pres and equalizers. He said "It's vintage if it works, it's old junk if it doesn't." :D :D :D :D :D Oh, the pragmatism of those that actually do music for a living!

Their's old, there's vintage. Whatever the case may be, there is a list of survivors from the ravages of oxidation and built up grime that have stood the test of time and continue to be both solid in performance and sought after for historical reasons as well as the stated musical merit. Men being men, we love the B&R analogy. That's Baskin & Robbins by the way, where the rationalization for multiple women, cars, watches and yes, audio gear are framed with the basic question "Can you really live with just Chocolate or Vanilla?" Hence was born 31 flavors, a slew of current new flavors and lo and behold seasonal and regional flavors. Sorry Tiger Woods if you feel alluded to :D :D :D :D

While I own a few vintage tubes, I've yet to acquire any vintage pieces of equipment. There are quite a few however that if I still had rooms to populate, I'd give a go. Here are some flavor matchings that really floated my boat.

1. Vintage_Dog

When VD matched Marantz 9s to his VR-4 Jr Mk2s MT module and a Vintage McIntosh SS amp to the bass modules, it became clear what the makers of the AB1 tried to achieve but didn't ultimately messing up to IMO a great degree what the LS3/5a did so well.

2. Mullard88

Since we're talking LS3/5as, which is the speaker I've heard with the most combinations of amps EVER, no set up has unlocked the LS3/5a's potential as much as Mullard's combo. Mated with modified Lamm M1.1 hybrids with exotic tubes and MIT hook up wire and strapped with cables that actually weigh more than the LS3/5as themselves the sound was more expansive, more extended than any LS3/5a based system ever I've heard while being true to the classic BBC design. When Ken Kessler wrote of his experience with the later model M1.2 Reference with the LS' I didn't really take him seriously. When I heard what Mullard put together however the guy's credibility rating on my reviewer scale took a major jump upwards.

3. Master Tweaker

This guy has a thoroughly modern set up consisting of Airtight Electronics, Quads, Nordost cables but a very vintage front ends. Whether he uses the Shindo Garrard w what looks like a 16" Ortofon transcription arm with an SPUa or a TD124 with EMT banana arm and EMT cart, the mix of old and new is simply musical and engaging. The musical enjoyment along with the bonus of a giant plate of homemade lasagna makes up for the envy of the LPs on hand for listening.

4. Raffy

When you're using so many different vintage amps in a modernly active XO system (the brain child of Levinson, the man not the company) using 4 vintage Quad panels, vintage Decca tweeters and a modern REL sub, pinpointing what does what is next to impossible for anyone but the guy who put it together. Fortunately, it delivers the type of musical presentation that does not invite the analysis. His living room will conjure images of Senor Lito or VD organized chaos, the sound though is otherworldly in spread and midrange palpability.
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Question of Definitions

Postby Squirrelnutzipper » Sun Dec 13, 2009 5:58 pm

An interesting discussion indeed. I am not sure that the lines of demarcation are as simple as vintage or modern, though. What qualifies as vintage for audio gear as opposed to modern? It might be more accurate to break down into antique, vintage, classic and modern, although I profess no ability to clearly categorize gear, except that the Edison phonograph would be antique and the ESS sigma delta dac chip would be modern. The lines in between seem quite blurred.

As for Mullard88's setup, I had the pleasure to hear it and agree with Jack as to the sound. It was really a unique experience and I had not heard anything quite like it until then or until now, for that matter. I have no really vintage tube gear, but personally am not interested at this point. It seems to me that old passive components with wide tolerances and old wires and solder joints just cannot compete with well implemented modern tube gear, which could be with the old circuits but modern components, and even novel designs, like Aikido.

As to tubes themselves, the modern power tubes are nearly as good, if not as good or better than vintage tubes, and a lot less expensive, IMHO. Small signal tubes are another matter generally, and in my limited experience, a lot better sounding and more interesting to hunt down and play with at far more reasonable prices. Tube rectification compared to solid state, I simply do not have enough experience to comment much, except that I do believe that the choice is somewhat dependent on circuit.

On the front end, of course there is the digital and analogue choice, both having adherents. I think having both is the ideal situation. Even within these two categories, you have the old and new debate. In analogue, turntables, arms, cartridges, SUTs and so on. Within digital, even though it is a relative new comer, there is the classic, NOS TDA1541 and variants, now coming on 30 years old, to the sigma delta chips, upsampling versus NOS and so on. Never mind the cd versus computer debate!

On the delivery end, there is the horn, monkey coffin and paper cone debate that rages on. As for me, there is something weirdly satisfying about opening up some old vintage Vitavox drivers and cleaning out 50 year old dead cockroach legs, lint, dust, rust and the accumulation of vintage debris. Cannot do that with the latest store bought stuff!
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Re: Vintage and Modern combo setups-

Postby Raf » Mon Dec 14, 2009 12:10 am

Hahaha...I feel like a kid that bit off more than he could chew...jeez...you guys speak GEEK quite fluently!!! No offense, there...the fundamental reaction on my part was more like..."Oh shit...I once met a girl named Pandora but I never got to see her box" ( a line from the movie Notting Hill that just stuck to my head).

I am happy you found my freelance amateur musing worth building upon and forming up :)
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Re: Vintage and Modern combo setups-

Postby marty_e » Mon Dec 14, 2009 12:20 am

Like for like
Kanya kanya
To each his own


And other hackneyed cliches. i guess the pedestrian wisdom from the learned is to each his own.

There is a corner in my heart that is PURIST. I want things to be ERA (right stereophile =)). I have this maniya that things should be as if they were when brand new - mid century or otherwise. Ergo, vintage for vintage - modern to modern. No mix and match. But this is from an aesthetic POV.

Raf is right - yin yang. Because that's from the ears not the eyes :fubar:

Discuss....
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Re: Vintage and Modern combo setups-

Postby Raf » Mon Dec 14, 2009 12:46 am

Marty, that touches on our shared penchant for time travel...reproducing sound following strict era parameters can really make you realize and appreciate the extremely musical quality of what equipment folks used and enjoyed in the mid-century...many times I feel that the recording of music from the mid-century era should rightly be heard in using mid-century era only equipment.

Kaya lang, sometimes a nick occurs...the nick being a sort of coincidental or deliberate combination of equipment that observably strengthens and enhances the general quality of the music.

Accepted that subjectivity rules supreme in this game...its just such a treat when you get an old tech juggernaut to synch well with something of a more modern bent and make a striking impression.
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Re: Vintage and Modern combo setups-

Postby marty_e » Mon Dec 14, 2009 1:39 am

raf, you just preached to the choir 8)
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Re: Vintage and Modern combo setups-

Postby Raf » Mon Dec 14, 2009 2:08 am

marty_e wrote:raf, you just preached to the choir 8)


Yes...embarrassing, thats what 3 San Mig Lites does to me...
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