GIGO – Trying to Make Digital Music… Sound Like Music.

29 Jun

Interesting article in Popsci – a Tube amp for your IPOD…

Trying to fix the truly crappy sound coming from digital devices with an analog band aid.

Garbage in… Garbage Out.

May be why the fastest growing segment of the Music sale industry is again…


Popsci's IPOD Tube Amp

How to Build a Sweet-Sounding Tube-Amp iPod Dock

Half a century ago, vacuum tubes were very common in audio amplifiers. A small voltage applied to the grid of a vacuum tube controls a relatively large current that drives the electromagnet in a speaker, creating movement and thereby sound. Modern solid-state amps are superior in cost, size and reliability, but many people still prefer the warm sound and mesmerizing orange-yellow glow of a tube amp.
Fortunately, there’s a way to combine the distinct sound and look of tubes with the utility of an iPod dock. I’ve seen a few commercial and DIY tube-amp docks, but they’re expensive, uninspired or both. So I’ve come up with a version that anyone can build for about $400.
It uses a number of off-the-shelf components, including the dock itself and an easy-to-assemble tube-amp kit for the heart of the system. I used the 16LS kit from, but there are many options depending on how much money you want to spend and how loud you want the amp to be. I built my dock into an aluminum enclosure from Hammond Manufacturing. You can replicate mine or design your own.
Once you’ve made those choices, the most time-consuming part of the project is putting holes in the enclosure and mounting the components. Add a set of speakers, and you’ll have a functional and cool-looking amp you can control with a remote. It isn’t outrageously loud, but it will easily fill a living room with fantastic sound.

Anybody know where I can get the license to the defunct Heathkit or Dynaco products and name for a new retail store line?

The Grandaddy of Home Built, a Dynaco ST-70 Amp

Yeah… You don’t want that Pumpkin again…


Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


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9 responses to “GIGO – Trying to Make Digital Music… Sound Like Music.

  1. nanakwame

    June 30, 2011 at 7:48 AM

    Yes analog and digital are making a marriage in many systems. Watched the Maker Fair last night, where children to learn math and science are going back to making things. Brillant Concept. What is there to say about the brillant Al Jareau. It is the great moments in this thing called life, that makes this journey loving and rewarding. You have a great weekend.


    • btx3

      June 30, 2011 at 11:05 AM

      This is one of my babies –

      NY Moscode 600

      It’s a 300 Watt per Channel (8 Ohm) Tube Amp with a MOSFET back end built by a company called NY MOSCODE back in the 80’s. One of the original designers has started building them again due to demand.

      This is the new Moscode 402, which I haven’t seen yet to listen to –

      Moscode 402

      Best Amp I’ve ever heard, and that includes a number of the esoteric ones at the very, very high end.


  2. Steve Fair

    June 30, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    Hey Btx,

    Thanks for speaking up for me on BR. As you can see Skinny is having no part of it.

    She can rant about “blog policy” all she wants but this is personal.

    Like her other buddy elb1999, she hates my guts and that’s all this banning is about.

    I get a kick out of showing up and peeing in her cheerios every few months.

    Take it easy. Nice blog



    • btx3

      July 1, 2011 at 8:51 AM

      Yeah – If you want to continue – all you need is a different IP address. You change ISPs or use a different access methodology (like your phone), You can also use Starbucks or Panera’s free access whose IP address is not associated with you.

      And yeah – it is personal.


  3. t-shirts101

    July 1, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    BR = absolute pathology, a fine mix of narcissism and self hate. It failed to be entertaining about a year or two ago. With the state of affairs the world is in right now, it (ultra conservatitism in black-face) could potentially be dangerous – if taken seriously.

    Question: What are your thoughts about middle of the road home theatre systems? I’ve inherited the family home, and I’m planning to redo one of the rooms into a “man room”; it will include a 50 inch plasma (or LCD -undecided) and beer tap (that’s definite).

    I have the opportunity to run the speaker wires behind the walls during renovation, and I’m investigating the various options currently. I’m not an audiophile such as yourself, but I’d like something a step above one of those home theatres in a box. Any thoughts would be appreciated, thx.


    • t-shirts101

      July 1, 2011 at 11:01 AM

      …side note, I’ve inherited some original Thelonious Monk 33 & 1/3’s and Mahalia Jackson 78’s as well, I’d like to be able to play them too.


    • btx3

      July 1, 2011 at 12:00 PM

      Many of the mid-level systems I’ve looked at through the years are quite good in my opinion. They are designed to optimize the sound source, which is digital. You can get a very satisfactory system in the sub $1000 range, I think you would be happy with. Generally, stay away from Bose. Think you would be happy with most systems from Yamaha, Denon, Onkyo, Pioneer, or Harmon Kardon.

      Stick to your price range – and don’t get fooled by listening to upscale systems and comparing them to the price range you want to buy. There is always something bigger, better… And much more expensive.

      I’d recommend a Denon AV-1912 Receiver mated to a Klipsh HD 500 Speaker system which should come in under $1,000. These aren’t the Klipsh’s of old – but Denon-Klipsh has worked for me in the past when I drove a pair of Klipshhorns and another pair of Cornwalls from a high-end Denon in one of my home systems before going Analog.

      In terms of listening to your 33’s and 78’s – there are an increasing number of turntables on the market at good prices. I would even look for a used direct drive (not belt drive) table, since about 70% of the sound is actually in the needle, and only 10-15% is as a result of the drive. In terms of an amp/preamp – check Craigslist. The good stuff usually goes really fast, but you usually can find a good deal on an old Maranz or other 80’s vintage system. Stay away from the esoterics. I see guys selling Macintosh tube amps fairly cheaply. That usually means the tubes are shot, and it will cost several hundred dollars more to buy a matched set (they come in pairs). On the older sets, the capacitors can be shot – which gets real expensive. A capacitor rebuild on my baby was about $500.

      In terms of wiring – 16 gauge is more than enough for Home Theater. The little 24/28 gauge they usually give you with the systems is a waste of time. Forget Monster Cable unless you just want to spend money or are into really high end that can take advantage of it.


      • t-shirts101

        July 1, 2011 at 1:21 PM

        Outstanding…. Thank you!

        Several good point to consider, things I wouldn’t have considered – direct drive vs. belt drive, avoid Monster Cable (I was skeptical as to why their cable is so overpriced), and I’ve never really been a fan of Bose. It’s my understanding that it’s ok as far as home theater is concerned, but kinda sucks for music – especially for the price. A google search for Denon AV-1912 shows that system is rated very highly, the price and feature set is in line with what I had in mind. What are your thoughts bout the newer Marantz receivers? Similar price range, $500 to $600.

        Another option I considered is purchasing a new receiver (tuner and amp combinations are a little over my head), with an older set of speakers – something that would normally be out of my price range if purchased new. Klipch, B&W, Advent, Polk, etc. I believe receivers advance considerably every few years while speaker design has changed little in the last 20 to 30 years. Thoughts?

        Once again, thank you for the advice. If/when you get to Detroit around spring 2012 (that’s when I plan to be done with the renovation), come fill your glass, and sit and listen. Seriously.


      • btx3

        July 1, 2011 at 3:53 PM

        As to speakers – try a set under 10 years old. Older than that, depending on how they were taken care of, or where they were stored/used – the cones or paper edges may have dry-rotted or gone bad. B&W and Polk are always solid bets. Older Klipsh’s – designed for stereo application, generally are mundane until you get into the higher end. I like JBLs, except like the B&W’s it takes a lot of power to drive them as they are “low efficiency” designs. Go with an amp in the 100w range for those. Polks and Klipshs, you will be happy at 40-50 watts.

        The quality of sound from amps hasn’t changed much. What has changed is that they are smaller and lighter – and produce more power per pound of weight. Newer amps are also biased towards producing bass – so it seems to the civilian user they sound good when used with cheap speakers. That is why there is such a hot market for old amps and receivers. Different amps sound different, a fact which you won’t notice until you try them side by side on the same speakers with the same sound material. Back in the late 80’s Nakamichi made a short foray into producing quality amps and receivers. They actually were better than many amps costings thousands – and blew away the competition in their price point, which was about $1,000. They didn’t make a lot of them, and they are hard to find. If you can find an older Denon – buy it. Ditto with Onkyo.



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