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  1. #1
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    Audiophile targeted hype on overdrive

    Ah for the good old days. The recent post on the Chinese manufactured Mini/Max preamp made me recall my childhood in my basement tinkering with old radios and radio parts. It looks so much like the first 2 watt tube amplifier I built from an old RCA tube manual that I couldn't help remember how happy I was when I first plugged it in and it worked. That 2 tube amplifier was my first real do it yourself project. No factory pre punched chasis, no factory manufactured PC boards (PC means printed circuit for those of you born to the Personal Computer age), no anything. Just me, a book, a soldering iron, and a bunch of old radio parts. It wasn't long before I was salvaging old loudspeakers and building my own crude speaker systems from scratch too. In those days, many audiophiles were electronics tinkerers and we knew what things cost and what they were worth. People who asked them for advice would never think of buying outrageously priced audio gear with nothing inside to speak of. Even if they wanted to, few people had lots of money to throw around so hype didn't cut it. In the late 50s and 60s you could save money building factory prepared kits. They supplied the parts and instructions and you supplied the labor. Many designs were so buildable that performance was as good as factory built. Not only were there kits from the likes of Heathkit and Eico but many of the major manufactures and even minor manufacturers offered them including Harman Kardon, HH Scott, Fisher, Dynaco, Lafayette Radio, and maybe some otheres as well. Many of the kits used many of the same parts as some of the best equipment at any price and the designs were similar if not quite identical. Was a pair of Dynaco Mark IIIs with KT 88s equal to a McIntosh MC275? What about HK Citation II or V? Was the performace of a 12AX7A based McIntosh C22 better than comparable units like Dyanco PAS3X, or HK Citation I or IV?. Maybe but if it was, not by a whole lot. On the other hand the kits cost a fraction of the comparable McIntosh and Marantz units. There were less expensive kits as well like HK Award series, Dynaco SCA 35s, and HH Scott 299Ds just to name a few. In the late 1960s you could also build your own AR3a and Altec Lansing Flamenco loudspeakers in kit form from Heathkit.

    Fast forward 40 years and things have changed a lot. Lafayette Radio is gone. Scott and Fisher have become brands for anonymous who knows what. HK is a huge international conglomerate who couldn't care less about kit building. Dynaco, the poor man's McIntosh is gone. There are a few small kit manufacturers who specialize in tube amplifiers and preamps but their prices are so high and their offerings so feeble that there are probably few if any takers. Meanwhile, the 12AX7A preamp lives again and the KT 88 power amplifier lives again but this time reincarnated as $5000 and $10,000 gee whiz "audiophile gear." Meanwhile the $47 AR 4x and $69 KLH 17 2 way low cost acoustic suspension speaker is reincarnated as the Audio Note K selling for $3000 a pair and up. You think wire manufacturers are ripping you off? Look at the rest of what the high end audio industry sells today. And what is the difference between today's "high end" equipment and these economy models of yesteryear? Better coupling capacitors and better tweeters. Not enough to justify a fifty to one hundred fold increase in price. Had the industry stuck with these technologies, economies of scale would have dropped the price by a factor of 10 instead. Buyer beware. Me? I stick with "vintage" equipment and modify it where necessary. That's where performance and value come together.

  2. #2
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    A few things...

    ...in the "review" of the pre-amp you mentioned, the reviewer compared it to a passive unit, which, according to his description, is a pot in an empty box, itself costing five hunnert...on one hand he states the passive unit to be the more accurate of the two and yet goes on and on about the Chinese take-out performing above it's price point, bandying about words like "cheap", "budget" and "reasonable"...compared to what...no headphone jack or tape loop...OOO-kay!

    And I'm sorry, if you need to spend $1200 to help discern "nuances" such as the difference between a plucked and bowed bass...you have much bigger concerns IMO.

    The Chinese tubes are available on the net for about eight bucks a pop and much of the other parts seem to be in that ballpark...how much could the raw materials cost? BTW, the ubiquitous IEC connector is there for those who wish to spend two or three times the units' price on a power cord. And I have a '66 Fender Bandmaster amp which has "point-to-point" wiring, everything old is new(and of mystical proportions) again!

    But I digress...Skep, the old days are unfortunately gone...most people don't read and rely on electronic media while they "multitask"(yep, they do it all and none of it correctly), they don't cook favoring salt and fat or sugar and fat from the local "Macwendbell" take-away, they are, well...I'm not gonna' go there...well maybe a little...useless, sheep, idiots...if some moron can sue a restaurant for spilling coffee on themselves and WIN, could you imagine the potential for lawsuits involved in the use of a soldering iron in building a kit!

    jimHJJ(...I have seen the future...I'm glad I'll be dead...)

  3. #3
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    Paul Lam will sell you a two gang audio taper potentiometer, a rotary function switch, some gold plated jacks, and a box for a mere $500. As I recall one reviewer commenting, it has some beautiful screws holding it all together. Now isn't that a bargain, especially when compared to the Mini/Max? However, no volatge gain. Hmmmm. Decisions, decisions. Which one to buy?

  4. #4
    Forum Regular gonefishin's Avatar
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    While pricing has certainly gone up thru-out the years. As you mentioned, there are still "some" companies which offer audio equipment in kit form.

    In addition to the companies offering audio kits to the public. I've also found that there are numerous (relative) individuals with reputable experience and designs who are more than willing to "help" a newbie like myself get his feet wet in DIY audio.

    I could remember the days of receiving Heathkit catalog in the mail...I'd flip thru it dreaming of which product I wanted to try. Problem was...is that I was still young. I did end up ordering a few projects...and did end up with a nice working product I proudly called my own. But, kits were already on their way out at this time...everything was getting smaller and higher powered. So (unfortunately for me) I ended up losing interest and would then save my grass cutting money to purchase audio equipment. By the time I was 10-12 years old...buying the kits really didn't even cross my mind any more

    Now, some years later...I'm actually getting into DIY audio. Now I may have a very basic understanding of electronic circuits...the ability to read a schematic...and the skill to make good solder joints. But I'm basically a moron. But I have occasions when I'm a moron who likes to associate with individuals with more intelligence than myself lucky for me

    Things may have changed from the years gone by...but this doesn't mean that all hope is lost. Since getting into audio DIY...I just can't say enough good things about the people involved who are building/tweaking/designing various SS amps...tube amps and speaker design. For some of these people building and tweaking audio equipment is just a hobby for them. Granted, a hobby which they're pretty darn good at...but, it's just not a business for them.

    Most of these people just seem happy to share any information they have with you. They just seem glad to be getting another person involved in not only DIY...but they seem to get enjoyment from helping a person either save money...or get a better product for the money they spend. Sure,these "experienced hobbyist" come with different credentials...and some may be more "qualified" than others. But the bottom line, many are willing to help those who want it...expecting nothing in return.

    But the joy of sharing knowledge doesn't seem to stop with these "hobbyist". I've also met some incredibly nice (and generous) people who build, design, sell audio equipment as a main income or supplemental income. To my amazement (many times) there just doesn't seem to be any difference between the "experienced hobbyist" I mentioned above willing to share his experience...and these individuals who actually make a living selling audio equipment that they have either designed or built. While talking with some of these designers, you can just see that they're getting as much enjoyment out of sharing their knowledge...as you (or I) get by learning from them.

    To all of these people I've met in the past who have helped me become...just little smarter than I was the day before. Thank you.

    To all those who have tried to help me become smarter than I was the day before but failed...don't give up



    here's a few things that I find have helped me out...(sure...you do have to be selective on what information you actually find useful at any particular place...but I see that as a given)

    AudioReview - This is really the first place I started getting hooked on online audio sites. I've met some good people whom I've never met, and some who I have. This was my launching pad but has always remained within my sites.

    AudioAsylum - Again...I've met some great people here who have helped me out alot! The archives can be a great resource tool and many of the individuals are not only willing to help you...but they'll go out of their way to help you. (I mainly use the HE speaker forum, The Amp forum, the Tube Forums and the tweaks forum)

    DIYAudio - some great discussion here.

    AudioCircle - The nice thing about this place is that they give individual forum to specific manufacturers/designers. So you can choose to go directly to a chosen designer/builder...or use the general forums for a (perhaps) more diverse view. In addition to the individual manufacturer Forums...you've also got some other competent designers who participate there from time to time. Not to forget those of us who are just audio hobbyist.

    Altec Users Board, Lansing Heritage, The Single Driver Forum, MadiSound Speaker Board...plus I'm sure many more that I'm forgetting right now.

    for amps...in addition to the forums mentioned at first...I'd like to add some more that have been useful to me... gainclone DIY Forum, BottleHead Forum, DIY HiFi Supply Forum Aspen Amplifiers and Welborne Labs Forum.

    Many of the above links also have available kits available...plus...you can find discussions on other kits available in the various forums.

    While the number of DIY companies may have declined, there are still some companies who provide this service to people. Fortunately the internet makes this available to those of us who may otherwise never have heard of these companies. There are also individuals (perhaps like yourself) who have vast knowledge and experience who are willing to not only discuss the DIY audio hobby...but also share and teach others who aren't as experienced.


    DIY has been a fun hobby which has not only improved the enjoyment I get from my audio hobby...but it has also saved me tons of money!


    just a few of my thoughts>>>
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