Just in – NAD 7100 and Infinity Qe Speakers

•January 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I just picked up this past Monday a NAD 7100 receiver and a pair of Infinity Qe speakers. The NAD looks immaculate – it came with its original remote, in the original box, wrapped, with the foam inserts correctly placed (easily done when following the embossed ‘TOP FRONT’, ‘BOTTOM FRONT’ etc etchings on them).

The NAD came ready to rock and fully operable. The Infinitys however are a little rougher – one tweeter seems not to be working and is rotated 90 degrees from the other. Hopefully it’s an easy fix.

More to come.

Infinity Qe Speakers on the workbench.

Infinity Qe Speakers on the workbench.

Infinity Qe Speakers without front grills. Note one tweeter is rotated.

Infinity Qe Speakers without front grills. Note one tweeter is rotated.

 

NAD 7100 receiver in its original box. Like Christmas for me!

NAD 7100 receiver in its original box. Like Christmas for me!

NAD 7100 receiver wrapped in original shipping materials

NAD 7100 receiver wrapped in original shipping materials

 

Shocking – Electrovoice EV4

•January 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Electrovoice EV4s

Electrovoice EV4s

 

These came home not long ago from an estate sale closeby. They looked huge and from the outside in good shape. My curiosity and it being ‘half price’ day made them too compelling to pass up. So they came home.

There’s not a lot online about the EV4s – mine seem to be early non ‘a’ models with a 12″ woofer with a cast aluminum basket, an alnico midrange horn, and a small cone tweeter. Later models evidently replaced the horn with another driver. They are not generally well received and others are noted as better performers in the EV line.

Inside EV4s. Crossover under woofer

Inside EV4s. Crossover under woofer

With that research out of the way I wasn’t expecting much when I plugged them in. So I was really surprised.

First of all, I had them on the ‘b’ posts of my Pioneer SX1250, with my restored Polk Monitor 7s on ‘a’. Doing A/B testing was very revealing – upon first listen these EVs were really great to listen to! The best way to describe them is ‘pleasant’ – they are voiced to give a slight glow to music. Perhaps they are a bit rolled off on the highs and lows but when compared to the Polks and when you’re not listening hard, the EVs are super nice. They are definitely not audiophile speakers and likely are subject to being paired to the right receiver and material but I was amazed. They remind me a bit of my KLHs in their vintage sound, but in contrast to the KLHs, here it is clear that the designer when into building this system with a specific voice and sound in mind, not to cleanly and accurately pass on source material. But these are all the better for it.

EV4 removable rear panel. Cool instructions!

EV4 removable rear panel. Cool instructions!

The EVs do have some shortcomings. First off, they are pretty big. They are gorgeous in a Mad Men type of way with a nice tweed grille (non-removable – you get to the drivers and crossover through the back panel) and thick matched walnut veneers. Also, with higher volumes or more dynamic passages these speakers can sound a little boxy. But that could be due to the aged capacitors in my set.

EV4 layer of insulation

EV4 layer of insulation

Overall I was very surprised how much I liked the sound of these speakers. I was expecting much less.

EV4 nice veneers

EV4 nice veneers

Dialed in – HT happiness

•December 11, 2013 • Comments Off on Dialed in – HT happiness

I just had to post – nothing silver face about this…

 

Since we re-did the basement, I re-assembled my HT components (106″ Da=Lite screen, Epson 1080UB Projector, Pioneer VSX-820K receiver, Sony Blue-Ray Player, B&W ASW600 sub, Boston Acoustic VR12 Center, Polk Monitor 7A fronts) but hadn’t dialed them in.

The result was a great picture, humongous bass, clear vocals.

But the sum was not greater than the parts. In HT surround mode, there was a pronounced jump between the center and front L and R. I thought the timbre was off between the Polk left and right and Boston Center. I was ready to resign myself to this disparity to enjoy my crystal-clear dialogue. At least the polks sounded good with music.

Dialogue also sounded a bit boxy, funnily enough. That was something I’d never heard in a review about the Boston Lynnfield VR12 Center, which is a massive 4-driver 3-way center channel which is lauded as one of the best centers ever.

I hadn’t run Pioneer’s automatic EQ program, MCACC, since the new speakers joined the fold. I wasn’t expecting much. And afterward, I noticed that while watching TV on Netflix, bass was low. Hmm.

Then I put in the Man of Steel Blu-Ray.

Wow.

Wow wow wow.

MCACC showed its worth. Even without rear surrounds, the soundscape was seamless and involving. The speakers melted away. Timbre match was excellent.

Interestingly enough, while bass was low on some Netflix streaming shows, with the Blue-Ray it was perfect. I’d long been a little annoyed by the massive rumble I was getting from the subwoofer during action films. It was awesome and I could feel the action but it definitely got tiring. And it drives my dog nuts.

This time bass was excellently paired. Rumbles were felt, low frequencies heard, but my ears didn’t hurt. The EQ made my excellent speakers amazing.

Once again, room placement and correct EQ are shown to be the supremely important factor in listening pleasure. it took my speakers to the next level. And I didn’t even know what I was missing. I wonder how many other people are suffering through mediocre sound from amazing speakers due to the same thing?

Oh, and for the money, the Pioneer VSX-820 does an amazing job. I’m using it to push into a relatively large space (12×16) and I’m getting no distortion that my ears can discern. Music is great too, and with the inboard DAC, iPod tracks sound wider and airier than on my restored Sx-1250. I am very satisfied, and would recommend anyone look at a refurb or used VSX-820-21-22-23 before moving higher up the food chain, especially if they’re mostly playing Mp3s and movies.

Update – A/B KLH 20 vs KLH 6

•December 5, 2013 • Comments Off on Update – A/B KLH 20 vs KLH 6
KLH 6 (brown weave grille) and KLH 20s in A/B test on my Sony STR-7045. NAD 7240PE and 5170 next to them on the bench.

KLH 6 (brown weave grille) and KLH 20s in A/B test on my Sony STR-7045. NAD 7240PE and 5170 next to them on the bench.

I pulled out the KLH 20s (newly restored) against my old dependable KLH 6s.

Both have replaced Dayton capacitors, drivers sealed to the cabinets, and nicely sanded and restored finishes. A very attractive set!

I plugged them in to my NAD 7240PE running as a power amp off of my NAD 5170 CD player for a A/B demo to see what, if any differences I could glean. I was expecting little to no differentiation. I was right in this short test – I couldn’t hear a lot of difference. But I also cut the test short because the NAD wasn’t working the way I wanted it to – the preamp in the receiver is not functioning now and I wanted to use the variable output from the CD player as a preamp. That was not working and I didn’t want to damage the speakers so I plugged in my Sony STR-7045 which was also laying around.

Here there were some interesting differences. I had the 20s and 6s lined up and started to flip back and forth using the speaker selector switch on the receiver.

 

KLH vs KLH

KLH vs KLH

I was surprised to hear more of a marked difference than I expected, and a much more pronounced difference with the Sony than I encountered with the short demo on the NAD.

On the NAD they sounded almost the same, but on the Sony the 20s were much ‘hotter’ than the 6s. It seemed to my ears that the 20s were a bit louder and punchier at the same wattage. I don’t know if this is because of the smaller cabinet of the 20s, perhaps a tighter speaker seal, the 4-ohm woofer and slightly-different tweeter. It seemed that the highs were more out there and perhaps slightly higher. Bass was good, but when compared with the 6, there was a little bit of a drop in some passages (Pink Floyd ‘Breathe’ for one) where extra low bass oomph persisted longer in the 6.

I went back and forth a lot trying to determine which one I like better. Really they are both great, and very enjoyable to listen to. If I only had one pair and not the other I would be extremely happy with either. But I finally made my choice for the KLH 6s. The 20s are a bit brighter but I wonder if they’re a little ‘hotter’ too, not more defined or well-rounded. The bigger 6s are more laid back and may require a couple more watts to sing but I feel there was some more detail there that the 20s were missing. That could be due to the extremely new caps inthe 20s ( the 6s have many more hours of burn-in than the 20s) or due to the replacement Dayton tweeters in the 6s. While I observed no difference in performance between the original KLH 6 tweeter and the new phenolic ring tweeters when replacing, perhaps this test shows there is more of a difference than I first expected.

In any case, the 20s at some point will now find a new adoptive parent. Whoever gets them will be lucky- they are gorgeous!

KLH 20s in the fall sun

KLH 20s in the fall sun

Even veneer on KLH 20

Even veneer on KLH 20

KLH 20 – Back from the Dead

•November 26, 2013 • 15 Comments

A few months ago, I found these sad KLH 20 speakers in the corner of an almost cleaned-out estate sale. All of someone’s worldly possessions were being distributed to the neighborhood curious, one by one.

As I walked in, someone was already walking out with a very nice-looking Dual model turntable and I heard from the guy running the sale that a pair of KLH Model 12s and a KLH Model 20 stereo amplifier and turntable had also already walked out the door.

I took one last look around and spotted these in an upstairs corner.

KLH Model 20 speakers. A two-way acoustic suspension design with a 10″ woofer and a phenolic ring tweeter. Standard going for the KLH series in the 1960s and 1970s, and very similar to the KLH models 6, 17, 23, and others.

The 20s were only sold as part of a proprietary system along with a turntable and amplifier. Period advertisements show them on matching space-age stands, which could be configured to stand together in a floating console-look system or arrayed around a room for better stereo dispersion.

KLH Model 20 set. Not mine

KLH Model 20 set. Not mine

The 20s are still collectible, especially as a system. I wondered why someone would walk out with the amplifier and turntable, but without the speakers. Their loss, I guess.

So I took them home. Upon first inspection, they were dusty and the cabinets had a few paint speckles on them, but no scratches. Just years of dust. Grilles were dirty but intact as well.

Dirty KLH 20 cabinets

Dirty KLH 20 cabinets

The 20s are a little hard to test, because they do not use + – binding posts in the back, instead using a single 1/4″ wire jack. This is a little annoying. I ended up cutting and stripping the plugs and wires from a couple of RCA cables to interface.

When plugged in to the stereo I had a disappointment – the tweeters were non-functioning on both speakers.

I’ve been through this before with my KLH Model 6s and was not interested in sourcing more original tweeters if these turned out to be dead. Luckily when I tested the drivers individually, the tweeters were all working – the problem was likely a dead capacitor inside. I can handle a recap so I ordered some parts and went to work.

The KLH two-way crossovers are pretty standard and easy to work on. There’s one capacitor to replace in the positive line to the tweeter, and two to replace in the tweeter brilliance switch connected to the rear binding panel. Soldering those and soldering the wire connections (originally they were just twisted together from the factory) is pretty easy – I had plenty of practice from my KLH 6s.

KLH Model 20 crossover. Lots of extra wire. Otherwise pretty simple

KLH Model 20 crossover. Lots of extra wire. Otherwise pretty simple

KLH Model 20 cabinet sans drivers.

KLH Model 20 cabinet sans drivers.

While I was in there, I also decided to put in real binding posts so I could use these speakers with general-purpose speaker wire and not my hacked RCA head workaround.

I drilled holes through the metal backing plate next to the single RCA plug and ran some surplus binding posts from my old Polk 7As through the holes. I then soldered the internal leads from the old single post to the two new ones.

Once everything was in I hooked up my Lepai 2020+ and the drivers to test the crossover.

Before I go any further, does anyone see a problem with my description of my work so far?

Well, I didn’t either. And that was a dumb mistake.

Because the second I turned on my Lepai, it started making a sound I’d never heard before – ‘click-click, click-click, click-click’. Why was a relay going so much?

And no sound was coming out of the speakers. weird. And then when I hooked the leads from the Lepai directly to the woofer, there was no sound either.

Now that was strange – I knew the woofer worked.

Oh. Crap.

I ran the binding posts through a single metal plate. I had created a perfect short circuit and jammed my amp into it. That was smart.

Thank goodness I used my $20 lepai and not my megabuck Pioneer or any of my other crucial systems.

So what did I learn, other than that I am an idiot?

1. Think before you drill
2. Measure twice, cut once
3. Test your work with gear you’re willing to lose.

So then I pulled some fresh (and much nicer) binding posts out of my drawer and drilled some real deep holes through the back of the cabinet away from the metal plate to hook up the crossover. Then I plugged and sealed all my earlier work with hot glue.

New binding posts. Still have to clean up some of the hot glue.

New binding posts. Still have to clean up some of the hot glue.

Once the insides were done, I put the insulation back in (pink fiberglass, be sure to wear gloves and a mask) and polished the cabinets. I used steel wool and mineral spirits to clean off grime and even out scratches, then came 0000 steel wool and Howard’s Restore a Finish to give them a deep even finish. It worked wonders – they are an amazing mahogany color now. I’m going to use some Howards Feed N Wax tonight to make them shine.

KLH Model 20. Nice even finish. Thanks Howard's!

KLH Model 20 back together KLH Model 20 back together

KLH Model 20. Nice even finish. Thanks Howard’s!

So how do they sound now? Great, actually. Bass is very tight. I also used speaker gasket seals around the drivers to make the cabinets airtight. They sound very good. Bass seems pretty deep, with a satisfying amount of rumble. Highs are good but decidedly vintage in the KLH mode – highs are still rolled off a bit but after 5 minutes of listening you don’t notice or care – you’re in love with how pleasant the music is.

I haven’t had a chance to A/B them with my Model 6s yet. I’ll be interested to see how the larger cabinet of the 6s changes the character of the sound. Other than that (and the fact that the Model 20’s woofers are 4 ohm and not 8) these are identical systems. Well, and the tweeters in the 6s have been replaced, but when I did that I could find no appreciable difference between the sound characteristics of the original and my new ones.

I haven’t re-doped the surrounds yet either. I’m going to do the 20 vs 6 test and evaluate bass performance, then try doping the 6s before working on the 20s. the 20s actually have very clean yellow cloth surrounds on the woofers, which leads me to believe that perhaps the don’t need a re-doping as bad as my 6s.

That comparison will be forthcoming. And soon I will likely be declaring a victor. And then I will have a dilemma. I only have room for one pair of vintage KLHs, and I have two excellent examples. I actually like the looks of the 20s a little better, due to their rounded front edges on the cabinets and the original beige linen grilles. The grilles on my 6s are brown saggy weave. Perhaps the difference is because the manufacture date of the 6s was 1972 and these 20s were made in 1965 – tastes evolve.

KLH Model 20 with grilles

KLH Model 20 with grilles

My KLH Model 6s. Who now have competition

My KLH Model 6s. Who now have competition

But I digress. I’ll enjoy these 20s but then they’ll likely have to find a new home. Hopefully with someone who can appreciate them as much as I (and my poor Lepai amp) have.

RIP, little Lepai!

RIP, little Lepai!

Latest Update – KLH, NAD, and more

•November 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

No new reviews as of late to post, but some things have been happening in my vintage stereo world….

– I’ve got my KLH 20s pulled apart and am ready to do a recap. I am also putting in regular binding posts (salvaged from my Polk Monitor 7B resto), will be re-oiling the cabinets, and re-sealing the cloth woofer surrounds with a period-correct sealant I got on eBay. Then I’ll put them head to head with my KLH 6s with my updated tweeters in a no holds-barred KLH shootout.

– I’ve got the Polk 7Bs hooked up to my Pioneer SX-1250 and am running vinyl from my Yamaha P-500. With everything in place on my stereo table (finally) the sound and acoustics are great. I also have my B&W ASW 600 hooked in to the speaker B of the 1250. Am thinking of using the internal sub crossover, but am concerned with having a ton of wires running along the wall. We’ll see. I’m pretty satisfied right now.

– I picked up a NAD 5170 CD player and another NAD 7240PE receiver last week. The CD player is a champ, and very sturdy. The receiver however seems to have a problem in the preamp somewhere – I can only get the faintest music through to the speakers at high volume. The amp is fine – I hooked it up to the preamp of my working 7240 and it sings. I’m still investigating but don’t know what I’ll do – hopefully there’s a cheap fix here…

– Am looking for a nice turntable for sale or trade for one of my stable of speakers or receivers.

– Likewise looking for a DAC, or I may try building the impedance buffer design that my friend Eric (he restored my SX-1250) designed, and recommends in line between an iPod and receiver.

– Eric also has a nice Kenwood KA-9100 coming out of a recap that I can’t wait to see and hear. More about that in the future – he’ll be parting ways with it in the near future and before he does I’d love to do a write up on this blog. If anyone’s interested in purchasing, drop me a line.

Latest Project: Component Rack

•November 4, 2013 • 1 Comment

I found an old butcher’s block that had split in two and had an idea – put stereos on it!!

So I got to work. It took about 2 hours of work with an orbital sander to get the surfaces in nice and smooth condition, then I stained and poly’d them to get a nice even finish. I was debating whether to oil or seal them and went with the seal. Looking back, I probably should have oiled them – the stain and poly left some white spots on the finish. Luckily they are all covered with gear now.

I stained some pine dowels from Home Depot for the uprights and bolted 4 industrial steel castors to the bottom, which look awesome. Now my SX-1250, Yamaha P-500, Pioneer VSX-820 and blu-ray are on the bottom, and my Boston VR12 is up on top under the projection screen.

I learned some lessons in doing this one, but I think for my first time it came out pretty well.

Finished table

Finished table

Closer view of table

Closer view of table

Ready under projection screen

Ready under projection screen

Covered in gear

Covered in gear