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  • Modding Vintage Gear

    Originally posted by Myles View Post
    Been there, done that! Way too old for that anymore. Loved modding gear too many years ago; I've moved past that stage now.
    In the linked thread, Myles made a comment that he'd tried modding gear in the past but he'd moved beyond it. I don't know all the background, but I'm curious to hear what other people think. One aspect that definitely resonates in Myle's comment is that time is harder and harder to find and modding gear can take a lot of time. I don't have nearly as much time for modding gear as I did when I was younger.

    I suspect that many of us have tried some form of equipment tweaking / modding. At its simplest level, it can just be tube rolling. The next level up from that is parts swapping - i.e. putting in better quality coupling caps and resistors. When we're talking about vintage gear, then we should also talk about replacing parts that don't age well such as electrolytic capacitor in the power supply.

    In my case, I've got an engineering background, know and like to solder and have built and modded lots of gear. I've got the following classic gear that I've restored or had restored and that I like to swap in and out of my system:
    Amplifiers: Harman Kardon Citation II; McIntosh MC30 (monoblocks); Threshold S/200 II
    Preamps: Conrad Johnson Premier 14; Threshold FET 10
    Integrated Amps: Fisher X100-3; Scott 299a

    I think it all sounds pretty good and although each component has its own signature. I haven't tried comparing this stuff to the latest and greatest gear available today, so I'm curious to know what I'm missing. What's everyone else's experience?

    Is modding / restoring vintage gear a path to audio nirvana or just a waste of energy? Inquiring minds want to know.

    ---Gary
    Analog: Scheu + Immedia RPM tonearm + Koetsu Black + Pass Xono or Threshold FET 10pe
    Amps: First Watt F7, HK Citation II
    Pre-Amps: CJ Premier 14, Threshold FET 10e, DIY 417a with output transformer
    Speakers: Horning Eufrodite, Reference 3A mm de capo
    Tuners: Sansui TU9900, McIntosh MR78
    Digital: i7 Server (Roon) + SSD, Sonore urendu + Mutec MC3+ USB + Berkeley Alpha Dac, Audiomeca Mephisto
    Power: Audience AR12, Torus Tot, DIY filters

  • #2
    I think the biggest improvement of new gear over older gear (especially tube amps) is the much beefier power supplies that we have now and the higher S/N ration of modern gear. A lot of the older gear has well designed circuits that were built to a price point and they didn't have access to the better caps and resistors we have now. I think I remember an interview with Sid Smith about his Marantz 7C preamp and Sid said he could make it sound much better by using today's higher quality parts.
    Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

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    • #3
      It depends on who modded the gear. i've seen first hand hack jobs by "enthusiast' w/ poor soldering iron technique/skills and lifted PCB traces or just as worse cold joints. I'm all for restorations/repairs on non-operable gear where original replacement parts are no longer available or desired. If it comes to perfectly operating gear, then leaving them stock is my ideal. In the car collecting world they refer to them as 'survivor cars' ones that have survived the years unmolested/modified, consequently they maintain a higher value.
      Simon Yorke S10 | My Sonic Lab Eminent GL | AcousticPlan PhonoMaster | Wadia X32 | Innuous ZEN Mini Mk II | Valvet Soulshine2 | Linear Tube Audio ZOTL10 MkII | Avantgarde Uno Fino XD

      "One of the great challenges of this world: Knowing enough about a subject to think you are right, but not enough about the subject to know you're wrong" - Neil deGrasse Tyson

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      • #4
        Originally posted by mep View Post
        I think the biggest improvement of new gear over older gear (especially tube amps) is the much beefier power supplies that we have now and the higher S/N ration of modern gear. A lot of the older gear has well designed circuits that were built to a price point and they didn't have access to the better caps and resistors we have now. I think I remember an interview with Sid Smith about his Marantz 7C preamp and Sid said he could make it sound much better by using today's higher quality parts.
        Later on, someone was actually modding the Marantz 7 preamplifier. HP reviewed the modded preamplifier way back in TAS and really liked it. It was a long time ago, but I do remember HP also commenting upon the effect of rolling tubes in the Marantz 7. Of course, there are some markets (Japan for example) where modding makes the unit essentially worthless. They want the original unit.

        There's no doubt that better and beefier power supplies as well as capacitors and lower noise resistors can improve the circuit performance. I was actually referring to how much better my Maggies--replete with new chokes wiring, binding posts, capacitors, moving the whole xover outboard--sounded than the stock speakers. Others such as George Cardas have gone to even greater length actually replacing the wire on the panels and getting a few more db of efficiency out of the speakers. Much of at that time the Maggie bass sound was the parts; in addition, I used to tell Jim Winey that he'd never heard his ribbon because of the awful 12 uF mylar capacitor on the driver (I think the parts have been improved including the iron core chokes).

        At that time, I also replaced the stock cj caps in my Premier 3 with Rel-Cap polystyrene caps. I hated those metal, ferromagnetic leads on the cj caps. Yes the metal leads allowed the company (F-dyne) making cj's caps for them to pick the parts off the assembly line faster. (F-dyne IIRC also made caps for Levinson). But those metal leads also added an edge to the sound too.

        Hell, I even tried bypassing the caps in my Dollies too!
        Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
        Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
        ________________________________________

        -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
        -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
        -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
        -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
        -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
        -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
        -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
        -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
        -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
        -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

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