Saturday, April 28, 2007

Outdoor Stereo

How about something different for a Saturday afternoon? Let's talk stereos.

Since it's warming up a bit here in lovely NW NJ, I've taken my summer/oudoors system out of hibernation.

They say there are two kinds of stereo guys: amplifier guys and speaker guys. In my heart, I tend toward the former. The guts of the system are a tube amp and preamp:

My favorite tube is the 300B, but at 8W, the 300B just won't cut it for outdoor use. This amp, an Assemblage ST-40, is a stereo amp that uses EL34 tubes hooked up in pentode and puts out probably 35W. It was the first amp I ever put together, made from a kit sold by a company called The Parts Connection, which was the parts-and-kits arm of the old Sonic Frontiers. Every time I plug this amp in, I'm amazed how good it sounds. I love it.

The preamp is a Foreplay clone, jazzed up with some tweaks and some "designer" parts, such as the caps. I've also added twin stepped attenuators, assembled from Welborne Labs kits. Very pricey, but I just hate potentiometers.

Finally, here are the speakers. They are based on Pi Speakers Tower 2 kits. The boxes are MDF, veneered in ash with cherry borders. Frankly, I'm not wild about the ash look, but it was worth experimenting. Whatever they look like, I know the boxes are well-made. There are two layers of MDF on the front faces, almost 1 1/2 inches worth, and they're well-braced inside. The Tower 2s mate extremely well with tube equipment.

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