80s Nostalgia



This is the first installment of my audio journey triggered by my unearthing a box full of negatives and prints.

NYC ca. '81 

I was an avid reader of British audio magazines Popular Hi-Fi and Hi-Fi Answers so I assembled a system with a Dual CS 505-1, NAD 3020 integrated amplifier and a DIY mini-monitor (could not afford BBC LS3/5As) using Radio Shack drivers. I eventually removed the jumpers on the 3020 when I bought the little Dyna ST35 tube amp cheap from Morel Electronics along West Broadway in what was left of NYC's Radio Row in the World Trade Center district.


The Dual was quickly displaced by a thrift store found ARXA which I eventually upgraded using a Merrill acrylic sub-chassis bored for a Grace 707 tonearm while retaining the same $15 Grado GTE+1 cartridge from Leonard Radio which started its career on the Dual.  

My brief foray into high end audio was inspired by reading The Absolute Sound (TAS) and Stereophile. I traded the NAD 3020 (plus cash) for a conrad-johnson PV2Ar preamp - touted for its soundstage and imaging abilities ;). To drive the pair of Magnepan SMGas from Lyric Hi-Fi, I found a used Berning EA230 at Stereo Exchange. The whole ensemble was connected by Straightwire, MIT and Kimber cables.


Being a tinkerer at heart - justification for limited funds ;) - another thrift store bargain ARXB chassis was prepared for a full blown Merrill modification program. I sent the inner and outer platter for an upgraded bearing, balancing and lead lining. Merrill also supplied a new Hurst motor in a proprietary mount and another acrylic subchassis was ordered predrilled for a Sumiko FT3 on a VTA-16 base fitted with a Grado 8MR Signature cartridge. The whole assembly was mounted on a custom Narra base. A SOTA mat and reflex clamp completed the front end package.

NYC ca. '87

Frustrated by the frequent trips the cj PV2Ar was making to McLean, VA due to blown regulators in the PS, I posted an ad on the NY Sunday Times and quickly unloaded the Berning EA230, cj preamp and SMGas - a pair of bridged ST70s could not make it sing ;(. I was gaining confidence in DIY/repair and was afraid I could not maintain the Berning and c-j with the same ease as Dynaco tube stuff.

By early '87 (see top left picture) I was listening through a stock PAS 3 preamp + ST35 (note: VPI bricks! ;)) with a Scott 350B tuner providing FM. Top right picture - barely visible off my shoulder is the right channel black Rogers LS3//5A. Soon I would add a PAS 2 (below), an ST70 and a pair of MKIV mono blocks.

Although it was an honor and pleasure to meet J. Gordon Holt during the 1987 Stereophile Show at the New York Hilton, I had just started subscribing to Audio Amateur and Audiomart because of the great articles written by the late Walt Bender on Olden-Golden Components in TAS. 


This was my first project - a modified Dyna PAS preamp using 80s philosophy on how to achieve good sound - high capacitance photoflash caps or computer grade electrolytics with solid state regulation in the B+ rail, polypropylene capacitors for coupling and bypassing.  I also modified my Dyna ST70 and pair of MKIVs using Andy Fuchs' GSI driver boards - cross coupled cascoded 6DJ8/6922 running constant current.


The late Tom Cadawas, mentor and friend. I never had formal training in electronics and in the early days when a project did not go right, I went to him and he always sorted the problem quickly and explained step by step where I went wrong.

Thanks Tom, you made a lot of audio hobbyists happy!

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