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Jeff checking in ... the Duelund-Altec Project and other stuff!

10-14-2018 | By Jeff Day |

First of all I want to thank you for being patient with me. As some of you know, my Mom, almost 94 years of age now, has been going through some rough times health-wise. Getting her to and from doctors, hospitals, trying to help her out generally, and spending quality time with her has been my priority. That means my available time has diminished for all things music, hifi, and other stuff.

Mom with a Glen Miller and his orchestra album!

As a result my reviews are currently proceeding at a much slower pace than normal (sorry about that to those of you affected), my answers to comments have been briefer, and just everything has slowed down.

So if I forget to answer a question, or my responses to comments seem to be a little short or terse, if I don't do something as quick as usual or I completely forget, it's not that I don't care, it's just that I am a little overwhelmed right now.

So please be patient with me, and it's ok to send me a reminder if I drop the ball on something.

A Little Live Music Fun!

I had a couple of good friends and musicians over for a little get-together on Saturday, and it was nice to get in some socializing, as I haven't been able to get much of that into my life lately.

I fell down on the job and forgot to take photos to share with you, so sorry about that, but I still have some good things to share with you.

Collings family photo: Eastside LC Deluxe (left), Collings Baby 2H (center), and Collings OM2C short scale (right).

It was sure nice to catch up with my friend John April who stopped by for a brief visit to play my Collings Baby guitar (center, photo above), it's been way too long, John!

John is a multi-talented musician who plays the banjo, mandolin, and guitar superbly, and is a regular in the Badger Mountain Dry Band.

In the video above you can hear a bluegrass version of a nice old gospel song by the Badger Mountain Dry Band they played at a 2010 Benefit Concert at Battelle Auditorium, featuring left-to-right, John April (banjo), Chuck Pedan (guitar), Kurt Gustufson (bass), Joe Smart (guitar), and Jim Honeyman (mandolin).

These guys are really great musicians, and you might recognize Joe Smart on guitar (second from the right) as being a national flatpicking champion on the guitar, or for his Grammy Award with fiddle legend Mark O’Connor, on the Coming Home album. Joe tours as part of the Mark O'Connor Band, so if you are lucky enough to get a chance to catch one of their performances you'll be in for a real treat!

John was looking to add another smaller Collings guitar to his collection for travel, and brought his Collings OM1 over to play, and compare with my Collings Baby.

John is playing better than ever, and wowed us with his playing on the Collings OM1, Collings Baby, Collings OM2C, and Collings Eastside LC Deluxe for a little while, before having to jet off to another commitment. It was good to see you and catch up, John, and your playing is out of this world!

Listening to the "stock" custom vintage Stokowski Altec's

Stokowski Altec's in the listening room.

It was super to catch up with my good friends Ron Barbee, Doc Leo, and Santos Ortega. I wanted to have some fun listening with Leo, Ron, and Santos to the Stokowski Altec's with their stock crossovers, before I replaced them with the Duelund-Altec Project crossovers showcasing the Duelund CAST tinned-copper crossovers, so we could do a "before and after" listening comparison.

Chad with the Westminster's and Stokowski Altec's.

You might remember back a couple of weeks ago when my buddy Chad stopped by for a listening session, and helped me move the big Stokowski Altec's into my living / listening room.

We put the Stokowski Altec's into the system where the West's normally reside, using exactly the same mix of components that I've been listening to with the West's:

  • CTC Garrard 301
  • Ortofon SPU Classic GM MkII stereo phono cartridge (Woody SPU tonearm), stepped up with a bespoke Intact Audio dual mono SUT
  • Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III stereo phono cartridge (Schick tonearm)
  • Duelund DCA20GA interconnects
  • vintage McIntosh MX110Z tuner-preamplifier (with Duelund CAST Sn-Cu caps in the cathode follower)
  • Yazaki-san hot-rodded vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers
  • Duelund DCA12GA speaker cables
  • Acoustic Revive RTP-6 Absolute NCF power distributor, connected to wall AC by the exotic new Acoustic Revive Absolute Power Cords that are in for review, a Acoustic Revive RAS-14-TripleC NCF Power Conditioner (on the turntable), a pair of Acoustic Revive acoustic panels behind the speakers, and an Acoustic Revive RR-777 and RR-888 providing a little Schumann conditioning.

After a bit of listening, Chad, a musician (guitarist) and fellow audio enthusiast, told me that he liked the Stokowski Altec's better than my Westminster's, which was lofty praise indeed.

The magic Stokowski Altec's inspired Chad to grab a Collings and sing a very nice version of "House of the Rising Sun", which was a blast!

I too was impressed with the Altec's, and felt really silly about not getting them out into the main listening / living room sooner for a listen.

In fact both Chad and I were bowled over by how good those vintage Stokowski Altec's sounded dropped into the West's usual place.

It didn't really seem to matter what albums we played on them, everything sounding amazingly musical and live-like, and "real".

Stokowski Altec's in my living / listening room.

I think I now understand better than ever Yazaki-san's "real-sound" comments about his vintage Altec's, and why he is so fond of them. Vintage Altec's can sound amazingly "real" and live-like.

The Stokowski Altec's completely blew Chad and I away musically with pretty much everything we threw at them during his visit (mostly rock & roll and jazz), and it was completely unexpected that they would demonstrate such excellence, grandeur, and beauty, which left us both in awe at their performance.

I might add that the mix of components supporting the Altec's for our listening session was period-correct for the kind of components Dr. Stokowski might have used back when the Altec's were in his home stereo system, and lets just say that Dr. Stokowski had amazingly good taste and his speakers are flat out amazing to listen to even with their stock N-500-D Altec crossovers.

Now back to Ron's, Leo's, and Santos' impressions as we listened to the Stokowski Altec's.

First I'll say it was about a 50-50 opinion among us that these vintage Stokowski Altec's outperformed the Westminster's in their ability to sound "real" and "live", which in itself is an impressive achievement, as my hot-rodded Westminster's are pretty amazing.

All of us recognized the vintage Stokowski Altec's ability to be remarkably album friendly, making everything from average commercial LPs to audiophile spectacular LPs sound like we were sitting at the recording venue listening to the live performance. I'm not completely sure how the Altec's accomplish that feat, but they do.

These vintage Stokowski Altec's excel at presence, dynamics, and tone, which is the "holy trinity" of getting live-like musical reproduction in a home listening setting. They are remarkably real sounding in terms of musical qualities go, like timbre, dynamics, tempo, melody, rhythm, beat, etc., and most importantly musical involvement. They just never put a foot wrong in playing the music, and these Stokowski Altec's are the most musical loudspeakers I have ever listened to. They also do remarkably well on audiophile-style criteria of resolution, transparency, imaging, soundstaging, soundspace, and the like.

Stokowski Altec's with my Westminster Royal SE's for scale - they're bigger than Westminster's!

Ron told me he thought the Stokowski Altec's were the best sounding Altec's he'd ever heard, and I was glad to hear him say that, because I was thinking the same thing.

I'm really not sure why these particular Stokowski Altec's sound so good. My components compliment for the Westminster's clearly suited them well, and there's nothing particularly remarkable about their own components compliment, which are generally representative of early Altec A7 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers, with Altec Alnico 803B 16-Ohm bass drivers housed in 825 style bass horn cabinets, Altec Alnico 804A 16-Ohm compression drivers on Altec 511B horns, and Altec N-500-D crossovers.

The only thing I can offer as a possible explanation for their über musical performance is the massive wooden cabinets the speakers were enclosed in to make them domestic-friendly for Dr. Stokowski from an appearance standpoint, the short pedestals that are built into the cabinets that raise them a couple of inches off the floor, and their rather formidable grills, which are not even close to being acoustically transparent and surely do some EQ'ing of the sound.

Stokowski Altec's in the listening room.

What I can tell you is that these vintage Stokowski Altec's are the most musically "real" and natural loudspeakers I have ever heard. The vintage Stokowski Altec's don't go as low or high in frequency extension as my Westminster Royal SE's do, but there is something magical about how they play music that I've never heard the equal of.

Ron offered me some sage advice: "Don't screw them up!"

The Duelund-Stokowski Project

These Stokowski Altec's are in the "forget about audio and enjoy the music forever" category and are so compelling musically that my friends have been asking me if I'm going to replace my Westminster's with them. They're that good!

Leo and Santos were already claiming "first dibs" on my Westminster's in the event they were to go up for sale! Easy boys, easy, not so fast!

Vintage Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers.

As an interesting observation, you might note that Altec probably made these speakers for Dr. Stokowski during the period when their drivers were produced, 1961 to 1964, which would put them at 57 to 54 years old, so Dr. Stokowski would have listened to them in his home for 8 to 11 years before he moved back to London in 1972. During this time period there were lots of good home versions of Altec's available using their pro drivers and horns, like my superb Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers (above), for example, so it begs the question as to why Dr. Stokowski went to all the trouble to have these speakers built for his home stereo.

Now I know why, as the Stokowski Altec's are just flat out incredible musical transducers, and easily outperform my vintage Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers (above), and my vintage Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers (below), both of which I love and am crazy about!

Vintage Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers.

Had I listened to the Stokowski Altec's in my main system earlier I probably would never have even thought of doing anything with their crossovers, because they sound so bloody good the way they are.

So there's something to be said for serendipity being a friendly ally, otherwise the Duelund-Stokowski Project would have not come into existence.

Ron's "Don't screw them up!" echoed in my mind regarding the priceless one-off Stokowski Altec's, but being the former motocross racer that I am, the motocross credo of "When in doubt, gas it!" overwrote my fears as I go forward with the throttle wide open on the Duelund-Altec Project!

The Duelund CAST Sn-Cu crossover breadboard.

I'm satisfied with the breadboard of the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu crossover I put together on a sheet of GPDS damping material to use as a guide of understanding the layout and wiring requirements, so I proceeded to the next step of cutting some GPDS sheets to fit into the bottoms of the high-frequency horn cabinets of the Stokowski Altec's.

The GPDS damping sheets mounted into the base of the high-frequency horn cabinets.

I detached the wires from the high-frequency compression drivers, peeled off the backing from the GPDS damping sheets, and then pressed them into place, with their built-in adhesive backs securing them in place.

Here's another interesting tidbit for you: When I unhooked the N-500-D crossover high-frequency wires from the compression drivers I noticed that Altec used tinned-copper wires in their N-500-D crossovers. The wires are fairly fine in gauge, a guess would be that they are about 20GA, like the Duelund DCA20GA, but I don't know for sure yet.

No wonder tinned-copper wires sounds so good with vintage Altec's, that's what Altec used with them originally! What is old becomes new again!

Laying out the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu components in the Altec high-frequency cabinets.

To start the installation process of the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu crossovers I placed the Duelund components into the high-frequency cabinet of the left loudspeaker to get a rough idea of how much room I had to work with, where to position the components, lengths of DCA wire I'd need, etc.

The Duelund CAST Sn-Cu components sitting in the Altec HF horn cabinet.

I included a couple of different photos from different angles to give you a feel for the amount of space and layout constraints.

Duelund CAST Sn-Cu components sitting in the Altec HF horn cabinets.

My next step will be to wire all of the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu crossover components together for the left loudspeaker, then I'll do the same thing for the right loudspeaker.

After I get all the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu components in the crossovers wired up correctly, then I'll remove the back panels of the Stokowski Altec's and disconnect the N-500-D crossover wiring from the drivers, and then rewire the drivers to the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu crossovers with the Duelund DCA series of tinned-copper wire.

Duelund 600V DCA20GA

To start with I'll use new 600V Duelund DCA20GA wiring for connecting the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu high-frequency portion of the crossover to Altec Alnico 804A 16-Ohm compression drivers on Altec 511B horns.

I haven't yet decided which Duelund DCA tinned-copper wire I'll use to connect the low-frequency portion of the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu crossovers to the Altec Alnico 803B 16-Ohm bass drivers housed in the 825 style bass horn cabinets, but I'll keep you apprised of my choice as the Duelund-Altec Project progresses.

After I get the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu crossovers completely installed, and the cabinets all buttoned back up, I'll fire up the system and give it a first listen with the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu crossovers and wiring.

After I make sure everything is working like it's supposed to I'll start voicing the crossovers by adjusting their high-frequency balance with the L-pad, and DCA wire choices.

Then as a last step I'll decide on how I'll secure all the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu components firmly in place.

I'm not sure how long it will take me to do all that, as this week is going to be a busy one with me taking Mom to see the doc's tomorrow, and with a surgery scheduled for mid-week. Family will be in town visiting next week, so I probably will not get a lot done next week either.

Stay tuned though, there's lots more to come!

I had a lot more I wanted to tell you in this post, but it would have made it too long, so expect to see more info in subsequent posts.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

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