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.

Updated 2/23 - Added Jelco 850L to System 2 401, added Decca Maroon with new line contact tip. Added SPH bearing to 401. Installed springs under speakers and sub. System 2 now approaching system 1 in SQ. 

Room Details

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

Components Toggle details

    • AudioGrail 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. SPH bearing, 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 121

Thanks for stopping by @lalitk and @mmcgill829. Speakers are 63 year old naked electrostatics. Utterly transparent and musical.


Finally able to view the system pages :)
That vinyl storage is really interesting. I could never - the cats would have that all over the floor in a few hours! Very interesting speakers too.


WOW! How did I miss this Analog and Tube heaven! I can’t wait to visit your den someday and experience your amazing system.


I have never heard vinyl sound this good before. Surfaces are so quiet, the music seems to just leap into the room. I never knew this could happen, but I'm so glad it did!


Hey Dan, Glad to hear your SPH bearing install went well. Doesn't it sound like the music has been released? :-)


Sorry to hear about you friend Mr. Morech passed away. We've got to love life, each day is precious. I'm pleased though, I just learned my new SPH bearing upgrade will be here tomorrow, so I've gotmy work cut out for me tomorrow.

Take care, my friend,


Hey no,,but I mean yes,

Well, I ordered a pivot bearing from SPH, so it won't be long before I'll have the unenvioble task of tearing my turntable apart, most likely for the last time


@tonydennison I don't even allow herself downstairs.


Hey Dan, Thanks for stopping by. I have the SPH bearing on both 401s and another in the wings for a third. I think it's a worthwhile upgrade. I found it made a bigger improvement on my higher resolution slate table. Biggest improvements in speed, detail, and soundstaging. As I said in a review, the original bearing sounds broken in comparison. Note that on the wood plinth, it seemed to remove a slight mid-bass bloom. So if you like a warmer sound, you may need to adjust. It's well worth investigating and it's relatively cheap.


Noromance (me neither, way too old to worry about romance, so it's not a problem). Looking at your 401's, I'm currently very pleased with how my analog front end sounds right now, but you've got me thinking, and wondering, how much benefit would there be in upgrading the center bearing pivot.

I'm going from here to SPH's website, and look things over again, and maybe, who knows?
Love looking at your system, as always, regards,


Woah....Can I come over? :-)


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.


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.


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