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1987 was a major turning point in my audio journey. Up to that point, I was a longtime subscriber to Stereo magazine and The Absolute Sound and had even purchased the Harry Pearson-recommended Kenwood L-07M monoblocks to power my Nelson-Reed 804B speakers.

New to Connecticut, I found myself filling spare time lingering at my local high-end audio salon, looking at new gear. I eavesdropped on a customer talking to a salesman about his tube amplifiers. We struck up a conversation and he offered to bring over his Andy Fuchs GSI-modified Dynaco ST70 amps to try on my Nelson-Reeds. That listening session converted me to tubes on the spot. The Kenwoods were sold immediately and I purchased a Conrad Johnson MV50 tube amp. I still have fond memories of that amp. The combination of the CJ's glorious midrange with the Nelson Reed's ATC dome midrange driver was truly magic.

The second experience followed closely on the heels of this one. Arthur Loesch called me about a turntable I was selling in Audiomart. We got talking and Arthur started describing a strange new world of triode amps, having read about their superb sonics in an article by Jean Hiraga in the French audio magazine Le Revue du Son. Arthur was busy designing and building amps around the original Western Electric 300B tube and, to my knowledge, may have been the first to do so in the U.S. in modern times. As Jeff Day related in his review of the Fi 2A3 amps, there were a number of other SET designers inspired by Arthur, or their own ideas, that were soon to populate this scene: J.C. Morrison, Herb Reichert, Don Garber, Noriyasu Komuro, Gordon Rankin. Intrigued, I made immediate plans to visit Arthur. After hearing the astonishing detail and soundstaging of Arthur's system, my audio paradigm needed major revision.

Arthur and I have kept in touch over the years and have made periodic visits to each other, keeping abreast of system updates. It was my turn to visit him and Arthur lined up a formidable itinerary of three audio systems in the Albany area.

The first stop was at the home of Ramkrishna Ghoshal or Ram for short. Ram owns his own business and has done very well, allowing him to purchase audio components in the ultra high-end arena. His dedicated listening room is enormous and is adorned with not just the finest audio equipment but also rare art objects from the Far East.

The audio objects d'art start with a pair of Wilson Audio Grand Slamm speakers. Ram had them upgraded to version 2 but decided against the latest upgrade, which he was told was not as significant. Flanking the Wilson behemoths are appropriately sized, limited production Sequerra two chassis EL34 tube amps. These beauties have ten EL34 output tubes per channel, plus two more EL34 tubes as regulators in the power supply. The rest of the monos' tube complement is 2 x Western Electric 417A and 1 x 12BH7 driver tube. I imagine the amps weigh over one hundred pounds each given the robust chassis and transformers (hand wound by Dick Sequerra). Ram said there were only about seven pairs of these in existence and they have been discontinued for some time. Apparently, they were designed by Dick Sequerra and built by J.C. Morrison who now works for JJ Tesla.

The rack of equipment along the sidewall is so large as to require several photographs to encompass it all. The focal point is the brand new Basis Work of Art turntable, which Ram said was approximately $115,000. Ram claims he is the first and perhaps only US owner of this turntable at this point. I certainly cannot dispute this, not being one to travel in these circles. To the left of the Basis turntable is a classic Revox G36 tube tape deck and a Studer 810 studio tape deck. To the right of the Basis is a stack of the full complement of dCS digital playback components, including the Verdi transport,
transport, Verona master clock, Purcell upsampler and Elgar Plus DAC. Below these are a Tascam DAT recorder and a Furman AC line conditioner.

The next rack to the right holds the Aesthetix IO phono stage and the Callisto line stage. Ram has four separate power supplies for these units, one for each channel. They are at the bottom of this rack and the next one to the right. At the top of the next rack is probably what I'd covet the most of all his gear - an EMT 948 turntable. Ram purchased it directly from a BBC studio, complete with two EMT cartridges, the TMB 25 mono cartridge, the TSD 15 stereo cartridge and the built-in EMT phono stage. It would be interesting to see how it differs from the EMT phono stage newly being imported.

Ensconced below the EMT table is a highly prized 1960s vintage Sequerra One FM tuner. This was playing when I entered the room and it sounded remarkably good. Finishing off with the final rack is the collectible but rarely used Nakamichi Dragon cassette deck and an APJ line conditioner at the bottom.

Our listening sources were strictly vinyl. This was a purist bunch with whom I felt right at home. While the stereo playback was very good, with the trademark panoramic soundstaging of Wilson speakers, the real treat was listening to some choice mono LPs on the EMT rig. The tonal balance and presence of these early mono jazz and blues LPs command your attention unlike anything else. It's no wonder they fetch such premium prices on eBay.

After dinner at a pub in nearby Troy, the group (sans Ram) moved
on to the next stop, Tempo Electric. This is a new company, scheduled for a full product line release in the fall of 2007. Joe Levy [below right], the owner and a friend of Arthur's, collaborated with Arthur [left inset below] to produce his designs for direct sale to the public. Arthur has no financial interest in the company but acts as the primary design consultant.

Until now, Arthur's schematics have been available in the DIY community and many audiophiles have built their own variations. Years ago, another friend of Arthur's, John Wiesner, built the preamp on a per order basis. I owned one for several years, as well as one of Arthur's 845 SET amps. There was also a solid-state version of the preamp, the TAG Model One that got a very positive review from The Absolute Sound. The owner of this company, Harry Paller, joined another company and was forced to discontinue production.

Tempo Electric's product line will include the Arthur Loesch Phono Preamplifier (stand alone phono or full-function), the 302 SET amplifier and the EP-1 speakers. Parts quality is second to none, including brands such as Tango, Vishay, V-Cap, Mills, Caddock etc. Joe has the full product lineup in his demo room in Troy and welcomes visitors/prospective customers by appointment.

For our vinyl playback, Joe used a Well Tempered Classic, which has been upgraded to WT Reference equivalence. It is fitted with a Shelter 90X cartridge. Pern brought along an amazing selection of prime vinyl and we sat down to assess the current status of the system's development. Both Joe and Arthur feel the preamp is fully completed but further refinements are still being made to the amps and speakers.

Listening started with the 302 amp but one of the amps did not work. We switched to a pair of the 301 amps (single 300B or 50 output tube per channel, rather than two), which Joe had on hand. Listening to my records and then Pern's, there was a variable range of sonic performance. Detail and ambience, always a strength of Arthur's designs, rivaled any I have heard. However, I mentioned to the group that I was hearing some glare at times. They agreed.

Upon my return home, Joe emailed me with some updates. Apparently, the problem with the 302 amps was that "two of the filament supply wires on the new power transformer were mislabeled so I inadvertently installed them in reverse (the center tap and one voltage tap were switched)." This resulted in about 50% more filament voltage on the input tube than specified.

Also, Joe addressed the slight glare issue by "replacing the signal path wire with extra soft temper silver wire, which we found to greatly reduce glare when used elsewhere. In addition, the power resistors went from Mills to higher wattage Caddock, another area where we've heard a reduction in glare."

Joe is still experimenting with the parts complement in the amps and just recently tried switching the driver tube from the 5687 to the 6350: "Last night, I rewired the pins on the driver tube socket and switched from the Tung-Sol 5687s to
RCA 6350s. Wowie zowie! Now there was musicality in spades..." I am sure that Joe and Arthur will dial in the sound by the release this fall. Their attention to detail is beyond reproach.

It was getting a little late in the evening and I was tiring but we decided to caravan over to Bob Cummings' house for the final system audition. Bob is a retired civil engineer, responsible for supervising a number of bridges built in the area. Through his friendship with Arthur, he honed his DIY audio skills and built a system similar to Arthur's designs.

Bob's system consists of the SOTA Star Sapphire turntable, Eminent Technology 2 tone arm and Shelter 90X cartridge. He uses a fully parts-upgraded Audio Research SP3 tube preamp and a pair of two-chassis, parallel single-ended 211 tube amps. The speakers are a stand-mounted version of the Tempo Electric EP-1 speakers but with different drivers. The woofer is a Vifa PL18W009-04 crossed over with a series crossover to the earlier Vifa version of the Revelator tweeter. A unique feature of Bob's system is two Hartley 24-inch woofers built into the wall with 14-foot transmission line (into attic) loading. They are driven by a Nelson Pass 100-watt single-ended amp with variable xover settings at 60, 80 or 100 Hz (by swapping boards).

Right away, you could hear the greater weight and body provided by the mighty 211 power triodes. The system had a wonderful ease to it, with the effortless dynamics that are hallmarks of well-designed, high power triode amps. The only problem was the blending of the Hartley woofers since Bob was in the midst of tuning the crossover and it was probably set too high. It was noticeably boomy and distracted from the otherwise excellent sound.

Arthur, Pern and I then drove home to Arthur's where we extended our listening even further with Arthur's basement system. These guys have serious audio endurance! Unfortunately, one of Arthur's Tannoy coaxials was damaged recently and he has been using a slightly mismatched pair temporarily. We played around with some different tubes and amps, a favorite of mine being an older pair of amps Arthur designed that too were switchable. The amps used to have a Western Electric 417 and 262B R-C coupled to your choice (switchable bias) of 300B or 50 output tubes. Arthur had changed the amp since I last heard it. It was now configured with a WE 417 input tube followed by a Tango interstage transformer to the 300B or 50. The output transformer could be switched between several, as Arthur had it wired for quick plug-in via octal sockets. The simplicity of this amp is very appealing and it remains a favorite of mine. We got a very pleasing sound even with the mismatched Tannoy drivers. It was time to call it a night.

Driving away the next morning, I couldn't believe it had been twenty years since I first visited Arthur and the Albany crew. There really have been no drastic changes. That is hardly a criticism. They got it right early on, patiently refining their designs, often through improvement in parts quality alone. It is exciting that these thoroughly evolved products will soon be available to the public. For lovers of purist tube audio, do yourself a favor and schedule a visit to Tempo Electric when the system development is completed this fall. See what total dedication has wrought.

You would think that was surely enough audio for one trip. However, I still had one more stop. It was on to Oneonta, New York, to visit Charlie King. Charlie has an electrical engineering degree and has worked with tube electronics since the 1960s. Charlie has developed several areas of expertise over the years, with reel-to-reel tape deck and tuner servicing being among his strengths. Along with a couple of Stellavox decks, Charlie has two heavily modified MCI JH-110B professional machines, one for playback/record and the other for playback only.

In the past year, he finished an excellent-sounding triode conversion of the Dynaco ST70 tube amplifier. The EL34 output tubes were replaced with 6B4G triodes, which is not a new idea. However, he tried several input/driver circuits and settled on the differential input circuit from the old Tube God writings published by Harvey Rosenberg while he was with New York Audio Labs in the 1980s. This circuit combination seems to give the amp better performance than any other Dynaco mod I have heard. You might recognize the amp from my past reviews since I have one of these, too.

Charlie's latest venture has been to learn how to restore/repair Quad 63 speakers. This largely entails replacing the Mylar diaphragms in the panels, applying new conductive coating and securing the diaphragms to the frames with a glue of higher quality. He's got a few pairs under his belt now and may take his act on the road in New England, offering to come to your home, replacement panels in hand and do the restoration on the spot. This would be a major boon for New England area Quad owners who are loath to pack and ship them for repair.

After an invigorating hike in the beautiful woods surrounding Oneonta, we sat down with a beer to listen to Charlie's handcrafted system: tweaked Norh CD-1 tube output CD player, tube output modified Sumo Charlie tuner, Intact Audio autoformer volume control, 6B4G-modified Dynaco ST70 and rebuilt Quad 63 speakers on Arcici stands. Of special interest is Charlie's homemade electrostatic subwoofer panel. The subwoofer panel is made to match the Quad 63 appearance and is mounted in a custom wood base made by fellow Connecticut Audio Society member, Mike Barney. It is powered by a 75-watt plate amp with a 24db per octave 100Hz low-pass crossover. The photo shows a brace behind this subwoofer to provide better rigidity. Also added is a tube "impedance converter" circuit so the subwoofer can be connected in parallel with the input of the Dyna amp with minimal loading of its circuit. He also has the satellite Quads rolled off slightly below 100Hz just so he can play them a little bit louder before straining the amp.

While most would react with dismay at the idea of powering Quad 63 speakers with a 10wpc tube amp, I must confess that this combination does a lot of things right. It is thoroughly enjoyable within its dynamic limitations. Charlie plans to build higher power triode amps next year, perhaps using 845 triodes, to provide more suitable power for the Quads.

We ended the day with a sushi dinner at Tokyo Express on Oneonta's Main Street. Finding a sushi restaurant in this quaint little town was a pleasant surprise. After dinner, we walked a mere one block off Main Street to admire numerous charming Victorian homes on tree-lined streets. Oneonta is a true slice of Norman Rockwell Americana. Driving home the next morning, I felt refreshed not only from the beautiful upstate New York scenery but also from the dedication and passion of these Albany area audiophiles. Thanks to all of them for their hospitality.