Long story. Started back in the 80s with a Technics SLB2, Rotel RA840 anp and KEF Coda 3 speakers. My first real hi-fi bought with my own money. - fun
Dual 501/AT95 - fun in a splish splashy way
Thorens TD318/Miltec Aurora HOMC- not much fun - dull, rolled off and plodding - what do you expect with a hunk of MDF and leaf springs?
Linn LP12/K9 with Cambridge Audio integrated - better but not great.
Added a Cyrus 2 which was dreadful - brash and dry, sibilant and colored.
Added a Audiolab 8000C/P - no fun - dull and plodding.
Added Monitor Audio 352 speakers - lots of fun - lovely woody sound - captured the emotion in the music.
Swapped the preamp for a first model Croft Micro - utterly transformed. Replaced all resistors with Holcos and doubled up power supply and changed the ECC83s to Telefunkens. Replaced ECC82 with a Brimar CV5042 black plate.
Added a Croft Series 4 Power Amp - better.. until...
I added a Michaelson and Austin TVA1 with MO/GEC KT88s which blew the Series 4 away.
Added a Decca Super Gold - great when it was in the mood but the Ittok combo didn't work.
Added Ortofon X3 Turbo - better but lost something. At least it played without jumping.
Added bronze Quad ESL 57 - removed many veils but creaked and vibrated.
Added Leak Stereo 20 - I rebuilt this lovely but under-powered amp with new caps and Holco resistors.
Added Spendor SP2s - put some veils back up but at least I could listen without torment.
TVA blew up a KT88 - replaced precious MOs with a quad of GE 6550 - better bass, lost the magic midband. 
Also had a Rek-o-kut, Thorens 160, and cream Garrard 301 with a Grace 707.
Packed it all away for 10 years.
Added a $700 Garrard 401 to a $400 birch ply plinth/Jelco 750L arm and the old the Decca that I was going to throw away. - WTH? Amazing sound.
Added new Croft Micro 25 - swapped JJs for the Telefunkens that were in the old Croft - better - and then GE JG5751 black plates - way better. The sound came forward and the soundstage flattened a little but... the timbre/detail/color and blackness improved dramatically and the speakers disappeared.
TVA went dead. It's up on blocks waiting for a late night attempt to fix it... but the HT is dangerous on this beast. If anyone wants it, contact me.
Added rebuilt EICO HF35s - better - wonderful amps - fabulous.
Added black Quad ESL57s - added home-made 20" solid oak stands - no vibrations, no weirdness - just fantastic. Matching serial #s. 
I use $12 Belkin Gold interconnects (preferred to a number of $200-$500 cables) and 12 gauge UP-OCC in Teflon for speaker wire.
Garrard has rock solid stability, image, rhythm, foot tapping, delicacy - bells shimmer, speed - you can see the snares shake on the drum and see the color of the different notes.

UPDATE 10/13 - Got a John Wright Paratrace re-tip and the Decca is transformed. See post below 10/28/2013.

Replaced Croft Micro 25 phono preamp with the R version. While not a huge difference, there is a lower noise floor, better bass, more tonal color and a snapping into focus of the imaging. If you are running these amps with stock JJ tubes, you are not hearing them at their potential.

Update 12/2017 - Added Audio Grail Sable Garrard 401 and Jim Campbell PA slate plinth. Replaced oak table with metal and maple stand. See pics. AudioSilente idler - just do it - best $100 spent. Transformed. 

Update 5/18 - Upgraded Jelco 750 to TK-850L 12inch with Ammonite collar. Essential.

Update 10/18 - Upgraded the aluminum Audiosilente idler to the twice-as-heavy stainless steel Artisan Fidelity idler. Just do it. New heights. You will thank me.

Update 12/21/18 - Replaced platter with Classic Turntable Company 20mm oversized aluminum platter. Excellent improvement to bass - gone is the plummy boom, now tight and colorful. Increased focus all round and better speed stability is noticeable. 6/2021: Replaced platter with newer slightly heavier one fron PAC.

Update 6/19 - Replaced metal rack with 4 concrete blocks. I've never been happy with the metal stand. I had it lying around and it was better than the old oak table. The concrete is a huge improvement in sound quality. Huge soundstage, improved stability of images, tighter and more tuneful bass. 

Update 7/19 - Added JW rebuilt (with extended line contact) Garrott Bros Decca Gold Microscanner

Update 8/19 Added SPH grease bearing to 401 - significant improvement. Blackness, stability and excellent highs.

Update 12/19 Croft 25R. Replaced electrolytic reservoir cap with Clarity TC film cap and phono loading and stopping resistors with Vishay Z foil naked bulk foil resistors. Excellent upgrade. Cleaner, more transparent with voices sounding more human.

Updated 6/2/20 - Added SPH 12" carbon fiber tonearm to collection. Fine sounding. More relaxed and spacious than Jelco 850 but not as dynamic or detailed.

Updated 9/20 - Added Nobsound springs to turntables and amps. See my 'Springs Under Tuntable' post/thread. Improved 3D layering, blackness, speed and transparency.

Updated 9/20 - Added 65" 4K TV.

Updated 3/21 - Modified Croft phono preamp power supply to use tube rectified and regulated vintage Lambda 25 unit. 7851a power tubes. Adds a tube-like dimensionality. 

Updated 10/21 - Added Croft RIAA-RS (single box version from @tomic601) so I can switch between arms without unplugging. Replaced 4 x bulk foil resistors on phono input.

Room Details

Dimensions: 40’ × 25’  X large
Ceiling: 8’

Components Toggle details

    • Garrard 401
    Refurbished Audio Grail Sable Early Twin-spark 401 in 22"x17"x2" Jim Campbell Pennsylvania slate plinth. Precision Audio Components oversize aluminum platter, Artisan Fidelity stainless steel idler, SPH Aluminum/POM grease bearing. Feet are 3 x Nobsound springs on slate pods.
    • Jelco TK-850L 12" tonearm
    12" with Ammonite collar.
    • Jelco TK-850S 9" tonearm
    Added this for second cartridge.
    • SPH Carbon Fiber 12" tonearm
    SPH 12" tonearm
    • Decca London Gold Garrott Brothers "Microscanner" Decapod
    Refurbished by John Wright with line contact stylus.
    • Decca London Super Gold with Paratrace and Decapod
    I almost tossed this away once. Rebuilt twice by John Wright. Added Decapod in 2019
    • Decca Grey Export Garrott Brothers
    Grey Export Garrett Brothers line contact with a side-screw Decapod-like mounting. Checked and cleaned by John Wright.
    • Audio Technica VM750SH
    Bought this to see what a good economy MM sounded like.
    • Croft RIAA-RS
    Single chassis version. Select tubes. Bulk foil phono resistors. Thanks @tomic601
    • Lambda Model 25
    Tube regulated power supply with original PIO caps, RCA 5693 Red driver, Tung sol 7581A power tubes and GZ34 rectifier.
    • Croft Micro 25R
    3x Shuguang Custom 12AX7 LS in phono and buffer stage. 2x Telefunken ECC83 smooth plates in regulator. Vishay naked Z-foil resistors, Clarity TC reservoir cap., BLE Design OFC power cable.
    • EICO HF-35 monoblocs by Stu Remmington
    Rebuilt by Stu Remmington with 3 chokes/PIO caps/triode stage running Shuguang Black Treasure 12AX7LS and new Tung Sol 7581A which are fantastic. Psvane 6SN7 globes are illuminating.
    • Quad ESL 57
    Original pair of black Quad ESL 57. Consecutive #s. I have them on home-made 18" stands. I'm running them with the grills off.
    • System 2 - Garrard 401 birch ply plinth 401
    AudioGrail 401 in 5 sheets of 22 layer birch ply with 1/3" solid walnut top. 1/2" solid maple sides. Audiosilente idler. 3 Nobsound feet.
    • Jelco TK850L
    On my second 401.
    12" tonearm
    • Decca London Gold
    Renovated Grey Export to Gold. New gold case, overhaul, and new line contact stylus.
    • Decca London Maroon
    New line contact stylus.
    • Ortofon OM-78
    Mono 78 65ųm spherical
    • Croft Acoustics Micro 25
    Telefunken ECC83 and Grant Fidelity Shuguang 12AX7LS.
    • Eico HF-35 monoblocs
    Recapped with 7581A power tubes, Mullard 10M /Bugle-Boy EF86, GE 6SN7.
    • Spendor SP2/2
    Still going strong after over 30 years on my second rig.
    • REL Acoustics S3 MKII SHO
    Impressive sub. Blows away previous Strata 3.
    • Clear Day solid silver Speaker Cables
    System 2
    • Neotech UP-OCC (DIY) Speaker Cables
    24" of 14 gauge cables - monoblocs under each speaker.

Comments 110

Memoed from a PM...asking about the differences between ply and slate in my install and the 401 mods I implemented.
I have 2 x AudioGrail 401s in plinths. One is 50mm PA slate, the other is a non-hollow, 5 x 13layer Baltic birch ply with a 1/3" solid walnut top. The slate sounds more precise, less forgiving, faster, more detailed and transparent. Note that the slate one is on concrete blocks on concrete floor while the other is on a table. This is a solid upgrade in itself and the improvements below are in that environment. Mods to the slate 401 are: SPH aluminum and POM grease bearing, PAC mk2 oversized aluminum platter, Artisan Fidelity idler wheel. 3 x Nobsound springs feet. Each mod improved the sound quality by a significant amount.
  • Bearing - huge increase in detail and fineness, esp in the highs, cleaner and blacker.
  • Audiosilente idler (upgraded to AF) - simply makes the table sound more coherent and stable with improvements in detail retrieval.
  • AF idler - AS + increase in bass weight and slight increase in body
  • Platter - again, as with idler, simply makes the table sound more coherent and stable. increased sound stage and blackness, and solidity.
  • springs - way improved 3D and speakers disappearing quotient increased. I've always been a spikes man but no more. Springs under amps work well too.


@music_is_life Thanks. Appreciate you coming by.


Some great gear you have there. Love it.


hi Brian … the quest is endless, no ? Happy listening to you !


@tomic601 I couldn't shorten the preamp power supply cable. Any closer and there is some hum induction from the power transformer. However, I did replace the wire per your suggestion. Not to silver but to my trusty solid core 12 gauge UP-OCC copper in Teflon.


Thanks Bill. Your own set up is pretty excellent.


You’ve given me a case of LP Envy!
Nice description on what you’ve done, how you progressed. An interesting read!


Thanks @sourpuss123 . Appreciate you coming by.


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Love your room and set up!  I need to learn how to get the most from what I’ve got.   Taking notes.  thrive


Thanks Davey. It does sound pretty good. Clear, fast, clean, and transparent— not slow and syrupy like one might think of vintage tube.


Very nice vintage based system. I bet it sounds great.


Memoed here from a forum post.. On the subject of listening skills...I have never given it much thought. On reflection, it’s been a saga of almost 40 years. An evolution where I keep the good things and let go the things that do not work. Most of the record(!) is on my Virtual System. What isn’t there is the countless hours of tweaking, reconditioning tube gear, tube rolling, and building a reference quality phono preamp from scratch which would sell for $10k today. Each improvement removed a veil allowing the music to come through. Like that crystalline blackness of live music. Layers of depth, emerging 3D soundstage, transient speed, timbre of instruments, and most importantly, the color of everything.


Thanks @alan2


@sbank Thanks. Surprised the SOTA improved on the SP10 in obsidian.


Beautiful! IMHO, there's plenty of romance.


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Love what you have done!!!!


A member asked a question:
I’m planning getting a 401 and still pondering between layered wood and slate for the plinth. I saw your comment about slate being cooler and monochromatic than wood. How about expressiveness? Overall you recommend slate to wood?
Let's forget everything except for the ability for the table to extract detail. Meaning how low can we push the noise floor down so subtle information is not lost. Then you need slate. On springs. On concrete. Also, my 401 is modified somewhat and better than stock. So figure in the idler, bearing and platter at some stage. Do not over-tighten mounting bolts. Do not add damping under 401 to plinth. Use a 12" arm.


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Awesome journey, and may it continue to be!


A member asked a question:
Do you still have your HF35 Monoblocs ? Would you recommend any mods to them ?
Yes. 2 sets. One set was modified by Stu Remmington a few years ago. Not sure if he still does them. They are heavily modified. Rebuilt, in fact. There are 3 chokes in the power supply. The auto bias has been converted to fixed bias. The input pentode circuit has been converted to triode configuration. Then all the passive components have been changed for PIO/film caps, Vishay/Dale resisters. And the tubes are types that work best which I selected through experimental trial and error.
The other set are merely refurbished. i.e. New caps and tubes. 
They both sound really good. The Stu version responds to any change I make down the line. They are extremely detailed, sweet, colorful, and fast. FWIW, if you only replace the power supply caps for decent electrolytics, and the coupling caps to K40Y PIO caps AND use new Tung-Sol 7581A and GZ34 and a decent 6SN7, you will have a fine monos for relatively low money.


Ongoing phono psu work. Replaced the GE 6SJ7 with the military version of this. It's a red RCA 5693. It has a big reputation. Woot! What an improvement.  3D space and air. A hint of sweetness (not warmth) and more detail.


 Thanks @16f4

Replaced the rectifier tube in the PSU with a GZ34. That cleaned up the bass issue and tightened things up. Fitted a DPDT switch so I can toggle between SS and tube which is interesting. SS is cleaner and sharper and more neutral. So I go with that. Then I flip back to tube and play it again and now it sounds better! More presence and holography -more musical. But at what cost? I'm tempted to replace resistors and caps in the tube PSU and see if I can eek out more neutrality from it.


Love the design aesthetic!


Thanks Jim. I'm still tweaking so I may do that. I'm going to add a switch to flip between power supplies. I may also replace old PIO caps.


great tweaks and evolution, i would try flipping power supply around to shorten the wire and use silver . fantastic 


Added a vintage tube power supply to my Croft phono preamp. It's replacing the transformer sand diodes. It's old and original. Tube rectifier and series regulator with OC3, 6SJ7, 2 x 6L6 (replaced with Tung Sol 7581A) Anyhow, it adds some heft and authority to the sound. More holographic, better detail and larger soundstage. More colorful. Very musical. Only negative is a bit more bass on heavier content than I'd like.


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