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Breaking Silence

For the moment I'll remain somewhat speechless. I have changed wire, rolled tubes, swapped amps, tweaked crossovers and added tweeters —typical audio quest of plug and play. Nevertheless, the most astonishing moments have been with software at listening sessions.


Lonestar AudioFest 2011

This time last week I was preparing for Lonestar Audio Fest 2011. I was going to celebrate the revival of some Quad ESL 57s I had restored. The electrostatic speaker rebuild had taken longer than expected. The prior eight months had been a series of tweaks and listening sessions. I was learning their limitations in an effort to achieve better sound. I wanted sound with body whose presentation was delicate. The Quads had a full sound that was airy and somewhat thin. Close but not the sound I imagined.

While happy with their limitations I wanted to fill the remaining spectrum. Playing with additional drivers the Quads would be the vehicle appended with jangles, bangles, and ribbons to address the areas of loss. The quests for additional drivers lead me to try full range drives in infinite baffle and open baffle configuration. Neither configuration matched well with the electrostatics. I queried audio fans for their ears. They too were happy with the sound but felt the same. The system had the makings of a good system yet something was missing.
After quite nights of crossover tweaking I had what I considered better sound. The new sound was fuller with slight bloom for the lower octaves. The following listening sessions would encourage me to exhibit at Lonestar Audiofest a free event open to the public. Exhibiting is simple: hotel reservation equals audio exhibitor.

I had achieved proud-sound in a humble fashion. At Lonestar I could corral new ears for a refined perspective.

InnerUrban's Quad ESL 57's Lonestar AudioFest 2011
Technics SL1200 Turntable
Phillips DVP 5982
Bob Carver Symphonic Reference
Yamaha CR620
Rogue Audio Atlas – Output Tubes
Quad ESL 57 &ndashPK Panels
MTX & Sony Expold –things that bark

Jim Rivers modified items on demo:
12AX7/12AU7 amplifier signal path tubes
Dynaco Phonostage
Bottlehead Linestage
Conrad Johnson Phonostage

At the show I was greeted with new challenges. The Quads sounded different in the hotel. They tilted to bass heavy and I lost an upper air from their placement at home. The room was smaller and my output amp was approaching harmonic distortion at louder volumes. Friday was spent behind closed door. I was isolated and frustrated. I needed help. After dinner and a beer, support came in the form of tubes. I normally run an odd couple in the tube sockets what I needed was a matched quad. Scott at loaned a quad set of output tubes. My smile returned. I was ready for the show.

What I liked the most about the show were the people! Many exhibited a joy for audio with encyclopedic references to products design history. Saturday the room was trampled by audiophiles. We enjoyed great music and exchanged philosophies. We also demoed sonic shoes created by Jim Rivers. He gathered my solid state gear was no match for his vintage creations. He offered signal tubes for the output amplifier and delivered a tube linestage and phonostage. To my chagrin the Yamaha CR620 receiver was bypassed for Jim’s rebuilt Dynaco phonostage. Its hand matched resistors handle music with more open transparency and resolution. His tube linestage creation was hosted for a while but we returned to solid state. The tube unit had a hot left channel and rendered the music with apple bottom bass.

This year Polk Audio showed some fabulous modern speakers and satellite subwoofers. They are leading the way offering commercial appeal for the audio enthusiast. Of the most hand crafted systems I found music at Scott Shaeffer’s room. After the show he hosted a shoot out of sorts showcasing his signature amps with an array of speakers. John Busch and Paul Jeremias presented their speakers for evaluation. Once the crowd faded we wheeled speakers around rooms in typical geek fashion.

John Busch's Open Baffle SpeakersPaul Jeremias Cello Jenny Speaker

Ending an audio weekend I returned to work exhausted. The days were full and I had very little sleep. The Quads are home as well. When energy returns I’ll plug them in for the next round of tweaks. I'm hoping to clear up their upper limits or add tweeters. I extend a debut of gratitude to all who visited InnerUrban at Lonestar Audiofest. I hope to see you around in years to come, listen to your systems, help with its progression, talk music, and create new things.