The Frugal Audiophile

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SteveFord

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The Frugal Audiophile
« on: 10 Mar 2012, 07:48 pm »
Is good sound possible on a budget?
I've found that the answer is Yes if you're willing to do a lot of futzing around with cantankerous old junk.
I've been screwing around with this system for the past year or so and have it just about finished (famous last words).
It started off with my vintage MMGs which went back to Magnepan last year after Fido's urine corroded the wires in one of them.  I swiped the idea of getting them up in the air from the MMG-W model and with some old side rails from a set of MG-1s and some hinges from the Ace Hardware, I was in bidness.
These do sound better up off the ground and it's nice to be able to fold them out of the way when the big system is in use.



Swing open one of the cabinets and there's the electronics.





Moving from the bottom up, AVNerdguy was gracious enough to persevere and recap/repair my old Harman Kardon Citation 22.  Some bozo was in there before and he left the transformer loose so it smashed the hell out of one of the boards which took some doing to repair.  I told our intrepid HK tech to throw it off a cliff if it was giving him too much grief but he wouldn't hear of it. 
I'm glad he didn't as after the refurb this is a nice sounding amp.
Next up is a bargain basement cheapie Oppo 981 which I snagged from Woot.com for $99 and then Oppo was good enough to warranty the CD drive when that crapped out.  They have won a customer for life with that act of kindness - it turns out that goods sold on Woot.com do NOT carry the manufacturer's warranty.
That's used as a transport and an inexpensive Blue Jeans S/PDIF cable connects that to a Pacific Valve DAC62 with new JJ Tesla tubes and that sounds surprisingly good. 
The preamp is a Carver C1 which has been extensively modified by the late (and sorely missed) Bill Dibble.  He was a really good guy and did a great job with updating this old warhorse.
Above that is my trusty Carver TX-11a tuner which I've had forever.  This has been modified as some of the TX-11a's (like this one) would just shut itself off for no apparent reason.  Not any longer!
This has a tube buffer in it's future.
Interconnects are braided silver which I whipped up and they really helped the sound as the Citation is a bit of a bass monster.  Who would have thought too much bass with MMGs?!
The speaker cable is Tributaries which I had lying around.  That will be changed to Kimber 4TC which I'm using somewhere else at the moment.
Rounding off this affair is an SVS PB12-NSD sub run at a low volume, crossed over at 50 hz.  I need to make a longer power cord and will go with Supra LoRad as they work well and don't cost a fortune.
Still to come is an APC power condtioner and then a flat screen so my wife can watch her shows and have some decent sound to boot.  I put this together for my wife who could care less! 
Is this the world's greatest system?  No but it does sound awfully nice and didn't cost an outrageous amount to assemble.  This was an aggravating project (I did mention cantankerous old junk) but I'm glad that I didn't get discouraged and chuck the whole idea.
« Last Edit: 11 Mar 2012, 12:31 am by SteveFord »

Letitroll98

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Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #1 on: 10 Mar 2012, 08:42 pm »
It started off with my vintage MMGs which went back to Magnepan last year after Fido's urine corroded the wires in one of them.

I assume the dog, uhmm........disappeared shortly afterward?

Anyway, very nice implementation there Steve.  Where will the flat screen go?


Rclark

Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #2 on: 10 Mar 2012, 10:38 pm »
Nice post! Good read. However after just perusing several million dollar systems, half million dollar monoblocks, towering cabinets made of granite... I'd say all our systems fall into the frugal category  :lol:, even the really nice ones.

SteveFord

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Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #3 on: 10 Mar 2012, 10:51 pm »
I am happy to say that Charlie (the dog) has gone to live with some nice senior citizen lady 1500 miles away from me.  And he comes with a complimentary case of Lysol!
The bad news is that he has been replaced with Molly (the dog).
The wife likes dogs and I try to be a nice husband.

The flat screen will go somewhere inbetween the two cabinets; I'll have to see about swinging it up and down (or sideways) so I can get to my CDs.
Dave the Turtle (in the aquarium) will be set free in a local pond this Spring.  I think he'll be happier that way.

I'm afraid that I will ALWAYS have frugal systems.  Ripping up those pesky bills and throwing them away just doesn't seem to work.

medium jim

Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #4 on: 10 Mar 2012, 11:31 pm »
Used is good and allowed me to build my "audiophile" system on a beer drinkers' budget!  As for expensive systems; it's all relative and if I had the money I would go for it and instead of driving a Cadillac, drive a Ferrari...

However, I would still own a Pair of Maggie's, but they would be 20.7's as I would have a bigger room to satisfy 8)

Jim

josh358

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Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #5 on: 11 Mar 2012, 02:53 am »
Amazing what's available used, isn't it? Not that I'd mind a pair of 20.7's . . .

medium jim

Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #6 on: 11 Mar 2012, 03:20 am »
Josh,  granted, but with used there isn't the break in period 8)

Jim

josh358

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Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #7 on: 13 Mar 2012, 01:36 am »
That's a nice way of looking at it -- the guy who sells his speakers to you is not only giving you a break on the price, he's breaking them in for you . . .

Letitroll98

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Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #8 on: 13 Mar 2012, 03:05 am »
I'm afraid that I will ALWAYS have frugal systems.  Ripping up those pesky bills and throwing them away just doesn't seem to work.

Actually, it does.  You too can be Donald Trump.  Max out the credit cards on fabulous new audio equipment, take a second on the home and get a pool, Ferrari, RV, whatever.  Then file Bankruptcy, chapter 7, don't fool with that stupid 13, and if you're current on your home and have waited 6 months since you went crazy, you can keep all the stuff, wipe out the second mortgage, and keep the residence, with it's new pool.  In ten years you'll have the BK off the CBR and will have your credit rating back up, and can do it all over again, only make sure to buy a new home with the second mortgage as purchase money in a non-recourse state, you can really make out on that one.

SteveFord

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Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #9 on: 13 Mar 2012, 04:43 am »
Why does that make me think of Mel Brook's movie "The Producers"?

TONEPUB

Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #10 on: 13 Mar 2012, 05:58 am »
How do you get to keep the house, cars and other stuff when you file bankruptcy?


eclein

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Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #11 on: 13 Mar 2012, 07:59 am »
I love my frugal system.....all the speakers I've had and still have but one pair are all CL finds and I met some of the nicest folks in the process of buying them. I found some incredible deals and have great stories behind all my equipment. Much more fun then just buying something new.  LOL........ :thumb:

mcgsxr

Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #12 on: 13 Mar 2012, 11:50 am »
I have almost always done my swimming in the shallow end of the spending pool in audio.  I have heard awesome higher end setups, but recognize that with family life and a responsibly sized family home, I will never have a fully dedicated space for audio exploration.

My competing hobbies (old car, pool table) also interfere with $ and space considerations.

So, I troll around for the best mid-fi gear I can scare up, and pull the trigger on higher end options that are older to suit my listening preferences.

No apologies, and along the way have met great DIY folks, and some that can accomodate the beer budget for great mods to decent gear too!

This website has been a rock solid place to find great ideas, and great gear too.

SteveFord

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Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #13 on: 17 Mar 2012, 11:09 pm »
I hooked up some Kimber 4TC speaker wires to replace the Tributaries and this system sounds just right.
Out of boredom I hooked up an old Harman Kardon F50xk tube tuner to compare with the Carver TX-11a and there was no comparison as the Carver is just so much better in every respect - sound quality, reception, sensitivity and output.
A tube buffer showed up today so I need to hook that up to the TX-11a and see if that brings it up to the tube Sherwood sound. 
I've gotta admit, I really enjoy the Harman-Carver system.

P.S.
Agreed about this site being great for ideas, help with keeping the stuff operating and buying used items.  The people on this site are incredibly generous with their time and expertise and I've yet to have a negative buying experience here.

thunderbrick

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Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #14 on: 17 Mar 2012, 11:42 pm »
P.S.
Agreed about this site being great for ideas, help with keeping the stuff operating and buying used items.  The people on this site are incredibly generous with their time and expertise and I've yet to have a negative buying experience here.

THAT'S 100% correct!   :thumb: :thumb:

eclein

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Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #15 on: 18 Mar 2012, 02:54 am »
I heard AJ's speakers today at a Rave and for $1300 a pair I really need to get some. But the big thing was they used Thermostat Wire 18gauge for speaker wire and it was amazing how good they sounded. You could hear the difference as they were switching cables....amazing, that stuff is cheap......
 Frugal is me...Craigslist is my treasure hunting spot, you can run into incredible stuff...... :thumb:

satie

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Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #16 on: 18 Mar 2012, 06:36 am »
My Frugal principles are

Buy the cheapest software that you want to have - LPs in large collections.

DIY your cables. If you like something more than what you manage to make yourself get a long length used and reterminate.

Set a top price you are willing to pay for a component and stick to it, wait it out till you find something on your short list at a good price where resale won't hurt you.

Try to use older good digital products (or products in general) unconventionally. e.g. an outdated Pre Processor lacking hdmi or some other video function can make for a great DAC/Pre  and will sell for 2/3  or even 1/2 the equivalent quality DAC from the same maker and you get pre functions for free.

Try to substitute for your dream speaker with something similar but way cheaper you can tweak to have better performance to approach what you want, often there is an otherwise great speaker that is older or has a particular flaw that makes it less attractive but can be tweaked/modified to have nearly the performance of your fave. With some skill and effort you might even surpass the speaker you were drooling over but could never imagine affording.

Many older amp products who's current versions cost nearly $10k can be bought for $1k-$2k and updated with modern caps regulators connectors pots and wiring to perform as well or better than the modern counterparts.

Some very high end gear can be had at a discount when it is modified, even if it is a well reputed modster. Sometimes a modifier/diyer unloads pieces he built at what amount to joke prices. Bone up on what makes a great performing piece and you can judge whether the mods/DIY project has potential at the price asked.

There are cult products that actually have much potential if you use them or modify them properly. Particularly tube electronics from the 60s and early 70s and the old high end high torque turntables (idler, DD) and MM cartridges form the 70s and early 80s.

Letitroll98

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Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #17 on: 20 Mar 2012, 03:59 am »
How do you get to keep the house, cars and other stuff when you file bankruptcy?

You can keep your primary residence if the mortgage payments are up to date, you can except the car loan if you lienholder will grant a reafirmation, which they all do if your payments are up to date.  There are limits to the value of jewelry, cars, and home furnishings you can keep, but in most districts you can trade one for another, for example a $12,000 jewelry exceptance can be used for the car if you don't have that much jewelry.  And if you've owned the jewelry (or anything else) for a while (no record of purchase that could be discovered) and there's no insurance policy on it, it virtually doesn't exist.  There are strict limits for cash in bank accounts and on hand, but goodness, if you can't hide money you have no business in this kind of scam anyway. 

I'm being slightly facetious here of course, but for people of means that find themselves in trouble financially, there are a zillion ways to get out of paying your debts, some of those ways filter down to the lower 99% and are being actively used today to work the system to their advantage.  Mortgages are being lowered by 20-30% in remods and 2nd mortgages are being settled out for 10-20% of their original value.  Bankruptcy's are being granted at a record rate to people with good jobs, so much so there is a clamor for the courts to cease and desist.  There are many people genuinely in trouble, the majority for sure, but many are using the panic in the system to their advantage.

Sorry for the hijack, back to frugal audiophiles.   

SteveFord

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Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #18 on: 30 Mar 2012, 01:08 am »
The wife has been out of town (YAY!) and I'm under orders from AVNerdguy to try and blow up the Citation 22 he worked on.
It's been hitting around 200 WPC (maybe a little more) on the peaks for an hour or two a night all week and not only does it run cooler than when I got it but it sounds a hell of a lot better with the refurb.
It's been pretty loud here, all right!  The MMGs are taking it pretty well, too.  The sub is filling the bottom end out and I'm sure that my neighbors are enjoying the music as well.
Or not.  I dunno, they don't talk to me which is probably just as well.
Two of these amps, run mono, would probably make for a really good pair of summer amps for 1.6s or 1.7s.  I hate running the air conditioner just so my amps aren't baking the place.
I'm glad that the guys at the Solid State Circle got me looking at Citation amps as they're pretty nice - I'd buy another one. 
The Citation 16 is a pretty wild looking thing...

Elizabeth

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Re: The Frugal Audiophile
« Reply #19 on: 30 Mar 2012, 01:21 am »
Sorry to go off topic:
I was at a bankruptcy hearing where some relative politely pointed out hidden assets. (jewelry) and the case was NOT allowed to proceed as a bankruptcy. (The lawyers had a field day with the bankruptee on the stand, pointing out item after item.. It was pathetic and obvious the person had tried to hide assets.)
So if you plan on trying to hid assets, you better be REALLY REALLY certain they are totally unknown to ANYONE.
And better yet, do not be an aho' and try to hid assets.
Otherwise a bankruptcy can get you out of those places where you consider suicide.
And yeah you CAN keep your car, or home under many circumstances. (specially where you owe about what the item or home is worth. In fact any item can be kept if you reaffirm the debt)  Just never let the problems sink so far you already LOST those to repossession.

For stereo, yeah cheap is good. I am a spendthrift. I blow vast (to me it's vast) fortunes on stereo stuff and then scrimp on other stuff so  i could do it.
New clothes? hah. Eat out? no way, except Taco bell.
I did buy a new car this year.. My old one was 13 years old and falling apart.