the next step

I’m not talking about GRE’s or Wedding Registries. I’m talking about nice analog sound. Right now the 1979 solid state Denon PMA-850 integrated amp is doing a fine job. There are two things hooked up to it, an older Philips 437 record player and the Edirol UA-5 USB sound card that functions as the DAC for FLAC’s and MP3’s. Zoe’s 7 year old Dell laptop does duty as the “media server/player”. What more could I want? Eventually new speakers. Zoe’s dad’s that we are borrowing, though they match the “70’s retro decor”, are old Bose 301 Series II omni-directionals, that sound fine for what they are, but the next step I feel is designing a complete system around a tube amplifier and ultra-efficient horn-style speakers.

From my readings, even 2 watt per channel output on really efficient speaker designs can give plenty of output. So that would be the plan. What is speaker efficiency? To quote Wikipedia, “Typical home loudspeakers have sensitivities of about 85 to 95 dB for 1 W @ 1 m – an efficiency of 0.5-4%.” That is, less than 1% of power in a system gets converted to sound. Okay, but by using using highly efficient horn designs it is possible to 50 times more efficient at converting electricity into sound out of air, ergo 2 watts can be a lot.

I was looking into replacements for the aging Philips 437. The only thing that really caught my eye was the Garrard 301. There is a gallery of these fine machines here. These things were the British tanks of the mid-century. When built onto custom wooden plinths with new tone-arms these things are gorgeous (and apparently sound great). You can just see it in the care people take in restoring them. Or should we just move to Argentina? Which is it?

J. Giesting’s 301Ed Quinten’s Garrad 301