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As I hit the highway for this RoadTour installment, I wasn't sure what I was looking forward to more - hearing the menagerie of fine speakers at his place or meeting the almost mythical man behind Millersound: Bill LeGall. If that name rings a bell, it may be because Bill's already been featured in a chapter of Srajan's Forbidden Fruit Tour. By his own typically understated self proclamation, Bill ain't no audiophile. He's just a speaker repair guy. (Now that I've met him, Bill's a music-loving mechanical genius in my own estimation - and you shouldn't presume that I'm using the term lightly.) In any case, if the scuttlebutt was true, I was certain to enjoy both the man and the speakers - and some good music, too. The other question was with regard to how best to write this piece. Srajan had already written much about the man, likely the most interesting part of my visit. What would there be left for me to say? I shouldn't have worried. I often find that if a piece is worth reading, it more or less writes itself. This one sure did.

I won't spend too much time covering Bill the man. Srajan has already done that well. Briefly, he's a man who, despite considerable material positions, counts close friendships among his most prized possessions. Bill believes in karma, lives his live accordingly and surrounds himself with like-minded people. Let me give you an example. When Srajan last visited Bill, he reported on two sets of fully rebuilt Infinity IRS systems. Subsequent to Srajan's report, Bill was approached by a buyer for the purchase of one set and they agreed in principle on a price. Immediately thereafter, Bill was approached by another interested party who offered him an additional $15,000. Ask yourself what you would do. Bill talked to his wife Loretta. It didn't take too much convincing. She just reminded him that if he was to renege on the first offer, he'd likely change his luck forever. That's not only talking the talk, that's walking the walk.

I didn't ask Bill about his technical background. I don't suppose many people walked up to Stevie Ray Vaughn and asked him where he took guitar lessons. Rumor has it that Bill's not a by-the-numbers kind of guy, yet (or because of it) he's extremely intuitive about how things work. Some people just have that gift. Not many but some. What I observed in his home aptly demonstrates that fact because Bill just doesn't drive stock. Everything at his home -- be it the house a/c system, his cars, his speakers or the associated electronics -- everything has experienced Bill's touch. And I'm here to tell you, Bill LeGall has the Midas touch.

One of the coolest things in Bill's home is the near infestation of Technics SL7 direct drive turntables. They're everywhere. He buys these close'n'play tables for $10 on eBay and then completely restores and modifies them. Without getting too specific and giving away his tricks, Bill replaces a good amount of the electrical components inside, adjusts some tolerances (which entails the use of a hydraulic press) and applies a good deal of strategic dampening of not only the platter but throughout the machine. When he's done, he's got a turntable not much larger than the record sleeve itself, with electronic cuing (you never touch a tone arm) but with performance I doubt the folks at Technics ever conceived of. Bass, always the first casualty of poor design, is amazing as is the table's almost complete immunity to feedback even when seated immediately next to the speakers with the volume cranked. Believe me when I tell you, these decks are super cool. Though Bill seems to consider them labors of love, they are intensively so and Bill's a speaker guy and distinctly not looking to get into the business of turntable repair or modification. Don't ask him!

His Infinity IRS system will be what catches the eye of most readers but they're way too big for my room. What I walked away lusting for in my heart was the pair of Accustat 1+1 Medallion Cs modified with the addition of a true ribbon tweeter borrowed from a pair of Magnepan MG-IIIa planar magnetics. If, like me, you find the Achilles heel of electrostatic speakers their incredibly directional output and weak bass, you're going to either love reading about these or you just won't believe what I'm about to tell you. But believe it.

As I sat before these speakers, the first thing I wondered was where all that bass was coming from. Knowing Bill (or Billygoat as his friends call him) as I did already, I was fairly certain that he wasn't trying to punk me with a hidden subwoofer somewhere - but that's exactly what it sounded like. So I asked just to make sure. No, no sub. That's when Bill told me that the 'shoulders' on the speakers not only served as a mounting platform for the ribbon but performed a very important function. They were filled with sand for ballast and bracing. Quite a bit of sand, actually. They added mass to the speakers and performed a stabilizing function that braced the speakers against their own vibration-induced motion. When the electrostatic membrane pushed against the speaker, these speakers now pushed back - or at least resisted the motion. Mass was also added down at the base where the frames meet the electrostatic panel. Bill had also modified the electrical components and bi-amped and tri-wired them. Bill insisted on my leaving the sweet spot, getting up and walking around not only the listening room but the entire first floor. What I heard evidenced amazing dispersion as the music sounded wonderful from anywhere I went thanks to that ribbon tweeter. If you've never owned electrostatic speakers, believe me when I tell you that when you move off axis, the music deteriorates in the most awful of ways. Now these speakers had bass and they had dispersion and were exceedingly easy to enjoy from anywhere. That's what makes them unlike any electrostatic I've ever encountered. I didn't ask Bill about the Green Hornet and Kato figurines perched at the top of the speakers but knowing Bill, they probably performed some function as well.

Down in the basement, Bill has a beautifully restored and modified pair of 1973 Ohm Walsh Model A speakers, which, again, are better than stock. These speakers utilize the original Walsh full-range driver which was notoriously inefficient and assembled by Lincoln Walsh himself before his untimely death. These days even Ohm Acoustics can't work on these speakers but Bill can and does. Anyway, in their day it took a lot of power to get these speakers to come to life.

Unfortunately, it only took just a little bit more power to smoke them. Bill discovered that this was due to the heavy weight of the driver which gravity would cause to settle, resulting in a voice coil resting almost outside of the magnetic gap. It took a ton of power just to center it again within the gap. Bill ingeniously applied his own solution to center the coil within the gap and suddenly the speakers spring to life with even modestly powered (and priced) amplifiers. Once again Bill's touch leaves the speakers better than new.

In still another room are the Infinity Kappa 7.2 speakers that Bill purchased on eBay for $350. Add to Bill's abilities to identify a diamond in the rough because, once again, these speakers just sounded
phenomenal and like much more modern (if that's really a compliment) speakers well in excess of their original asking price. One of the first things that Bill does is disassemble the woofers and give them a new surround of his choosing - he does have his favorites there. In just the same way a mechanic balances the wheels on your car when you get new tires, Bill balances the driver. What results is a new, lively and extremely punchy bass character that empowers the speaker as never before. In some cases, he also nets a few Hertz of added bass extension. Similar attention was paid to the midrange dome. By the way, Bill's no stranger to wood finishing and repair. Every speaker that goes through his refurbishing regime ends up looking at least as good as new. Bill's a perfectionist. His finishing work is stunningly good and these little Kappas looked more than factory fresh. Like the modified Accustats, I'd be proud to display and demonstrate this pair of speakers in my home - and I'd enjoy doing so, too.

Then there are the Fisher speakers, the XP 18s. Purchased by Bill himself in 1969, later sold to a dear friend who presented them to Bill again in 2002. Unfortunately, I was unable to hear this pair of 4-ways featuring an 18-inch woofer, an 8-inch midbass, a 5¼" midrange and dual 1½" tweeters. Bill tells me that their most arresting trait is their electrostatic-like coherence. What I was able to appreciate, once again, is the beautiful refinishing the speakers received at Bill's capable hands. These speakers were just beautiful.

And then... there was the mythical Infinity IRS system. 1,500 pounds of music-making apparatus. Despite appearances, Bill says that he's not a materialistic man. As demonstrated elsewhere already, Bill doesn't drive stock and he doesn't pay list. Though he admits to a certain long-standing soft spot for the IRS, he's quick to point out that he didn't pay much for them. The Infinity IRS was in production until 1995 and Bill's samples are from very early production. When he found them, they showed it. They began life as Series IIs and were born in September 1981 though the previous owner had subsequently upgraded them to Series IIIs. Even so, at this point the woofer surrounds were gone. The speakers' previous owners let the speakers fall into such a state of disrepair that their dog was allowed to relieve itself on them at will and the speakers were horribly stained as a result. Bill walked away from the purchase. Then came a phone call from the owner's wife. Eventually she agreed on a price of $2,000 with Loretta if Bill would take them away. But when Bill showed up, the motivated seller threw in so many electronic goodies as to make the speakers basically free in exchange for hauling the dreaded smelly things away.

I didn't ask Bill about the state of the other drivers but the Electro Magnetic Induction Midrange drivers (EMIMs for short) were notorious for being unreliable and known to fail on a regular basis in the field. I think it's safe to assume that these, too, required work. You'd be disappointed to learn that Bill had to outsource this task, wouldn't you? But Bill doesn't disappoint. Not only does he know how to fix them, he knows how to make sure that they never fail again. Ever. He told me and showed me what's involved but my assumption is that it's not my place to share trade secrets. And neither does he restore the drivers to stock. He makes them better. It was when he demonstrated for me the process of rebuilding the EMIMs that I was struck by the fact that much of what Bill does isn't all fun and glory. It's time-consuming and it's tedious. Mind-numbingly tedious. Bill showed me how he replaced each of the 20 neodymium magnets within each of the EMIM drivers. That's 24 EMIMs in total or 480 new magnets of a different specification so as to enable him to work with a larger gap yet retain magnetic fields of the same effective strength.

This task involved the careful removal of the old magnets which were glued in place and the use of a shim to preserve the required geometries involved as he glued the new magnets in place one by one. Bill is quick to acknowledge the aid he received from Loretta and credits her for being the brains in the outfit. It was Loretta who came up with the idea that ultimately brought about the tightening of image and focus to unprecedented levels. Loretta suggested to Bill that they measure the resistance of each of the drivers and then sort them accordingly. Together they found that each driver measured deviations of almost +/- .5 ohms. As they installed the drivers, they made sure that, as far as electrical specifications went, they equipped both speakers with matched and
mirroring drivers. I didn't ask how, exactly, the drivers were arranged but the same pattern was used on both speakers such that they exactly mirrored each other. Equal care, but in all likelihood less tedium, was bequeathed on the Brazilian Rosewood cabinetry where Bill was fortunate to discover that the wood's finish had protected it from permanent damage by canine uric acid. Bill says that it washed right off. Rather than the mirrored high-gloss finish of his first pair, Bill opted for a more natural oiled finish, which was beautifully applied.

As of today, Bill tells me that the woofers in the bass columns are billified Series III units, which he prefers to those used in subsequent series. Everything else represents his improved versions of Series V including the more powerful 2000-watt bass amplifiers and his own tweaked-out crossovers and servos located in his custom-built enclosures. Adorned with the Infinity logo, these completely finished enclosures resemble little tower speakers stowed away behind the main speakers.

Few readers won't know the experience of walking into a room and taking in a smell that instantly transports you to another time and place. That's what I experienced when Bill fired up the big Infinities. In the 80s and early 90s, Infinity was as omnipresent as, say, B&W is today. You couldn't go anywhere and not hear them. Though I'd never before heard IRS Series anythings, there was no mistaking the sound of those EMIT tweeters and EMIM mids even if they were now better than new. There really is something unique about them and it was like going home again, sonically speaking. What I had never experienced before though was such bass. It was, in a word,
spectacular. Quick as a cat, phenomenally balanced and integrated, deep and powerful, it brought out bass in my own recordings I had literally never experienced before from reproduced music. "Monkeys Paw", for example, from Laurie Anderson's Strange Angels CD, was shown to contain deep and powerful bass lines I didn't even know where there. Deep and room-shaking effects had heretofore gone completely unnoticed. Someone put on an LP of choral and pipe organ music that yanked me out of Bill's home and dropped me into a church pew. There was absolutely no bass distortion wreaking havoc by unduly pressurizing the ears in what is often an uncomfortable and irritating manner. The bass just flowed through the structure of the room, up through the seats and into mine. I told Bill the only things missing were the hard and uncomfortable wooden bench - and a properly penitent attitude. If you've never experienced such a bass sensation live, you probably have no idea what I'm describing. It's extremely unlikely that you've heard anything like it from speakers. Of course, with most music there's no indication whatsoever of the potential of these vintage speakers. They don't tip their hand via exaggerated performance in any way unless called upon to do so by the music's content. Their bass tight, tuneful and as inconspicuous as can be - most of the time.
I suppose that if this were a formal review, I could spend time trying to describe in detail the midrange and treble performance of these speakers but it would be antithetical to the purpose of this story. Let me just say that Bill's IRS system reproduces the music with a sliding scale that is generally appropriate to the recording but when the music is intended to be big, the only thing much bigger is an in-the-flesh full-scale symphony orchestra. There's nothing romantic about the presentation, the big Infinities lay it out there for the listener, warts and all. But they wouldn't be as fun if they did anything overt to exacerbate those warts. I've heard much more harsh and analytical speakers and it's simply no issue here.

About the only thing in the house that wasn't graced by Bill's touch was the Merrill/Scillia Research MS2 turntable brought down for the day by Anthony Scillia himself. This is the same table I have under my roof for evaluation as I type this but Anthony had outfitted this one with the much more ambitious DaVinci tone arm and Dynavector Te Kaitora cartridge that sounded superb. While I'll report on the MS2/Hadcock/Ortofon combination in the near future, it was as educational as it was enjoyable to hear what a really top-flight arm and cartridge can bring to the MS2. Those never having heard such a system and wondering how vinyl aficionados deal with record noise will be interested to know that record noise was almost non-existent. What little remained was so reduced in level and so removed from the context of the music that the brain had a tendency to listen right past it in favor of the music presented with a musical flow and a presence unavailable on CD. This is one super playback system - but that's a story for another day.

I would be extraordinarily remiss not to mention two of Bill's good friends, Lee Robertson and Chuck DiGiorgio, two extremely affable and good-natured fellas who, I'm told, lend their expert ears to Bill on occasion. Lee is an Infinity fan -- or at least an Infinity/LeGall fan -- as he owns Infinity Betas modified by Bill. Now that I think about it, it may be best to allow Bill to introduce his friends because, as you'll see, how he describes them reveals as much about Bill as it does about Chuck and Lee.

"It is with great pleasure that we offer our thoughts about Lee Robertson. Other than his kindness and generosity, the one thing that stands out is that Loretta & I consider him the happiest grown-up we've ever met in our lives. He finds humor in everything. The man has a deep appreciation of good friendship and all that one is supposed to value in life. An engineer and a proud family man (with a son heading off to college - as is Chuck's lovely daughter), he somehow finds time to indulge in his passion of audio and love for music. Lee has a keen ear and sets me back on track when I occasionally screw up my systems. Call it constructive criticism in the truest sense of the word. Just like Chuck, he lives up to the highest moral standard, and one is humbled to deserve his friendship. Lee has a rather large array of contemporary audio/video equipment, representing the finest (mostly) American brands such as Krell, Martin Logan, Infinity and Audio Research. A huge projector screen covers most of his wall, with an incredible surround system by Martin Logan augmented by a large Velodyne subwoofing machine. His main music speakers are the 4-piece Infinity IRS Betas, a speaker that Lee states he would never sell. Lee trusts his own ears and is immune to the component of the month disease. Lee recently bought us a brand-new pair of floorstanding speakers. Though they were a close-out, it is one of his favorite sounds. He wanted "Bill & Loretta to have one of each best-sounding speaker so these are for you, as they will have their rightful place." I could go on and on but I know that you can only utilize a little each of these Chuck and Lee stories anyway."

Of his friend Chuck DiGiorgio Bill wrote: "Chuck is a lover of all products introduced decades ago by his heroes, Avery Fisher (Fisher Radio), Henry Kloss (AR, KLH, Advent) and David Hafler (Dynaco & Hafler Electronics). These were the products that represented absolute value. Ask any older audiophile today about what products got them started in high-en, and almost without fail, it will be the items offered by some of these 'heros'. Almost every one of them built a Dynakit and had the latest rage "stacked" Advents or AR-3a speakers. Chuck has many examples, in museum condition, working and sounding glorious. Chuck works on his own equipment whenever he can find the time. Not only does he restore and repair these items for himself but he performs modifications and refinements that have to be heard to be believed. Everything is so totally musical. One could listen for hour upon hour without fatigue. Chuck is a family man of highest moral value and works as a Information Technology Project Manager. Chuck is the height of modesty. In his own words, he's "nothing more than an audio lover for 40 years". Anyone that makes the world a better place to live is much more than that. He deserves a medal! A portion of his collection: Fisher models 400, 500B, 500C, 800C (receivers); X1000, KX-90, KX-200, FM-200B; Dynaco models SCA-35, ST-35, FM-3; KLH models 5 speakers, model 8 and various 21-series table radios. More contemporary stuff: Von Schweikert VR-1 mini monitors, B&W 802F and Cambridge 840 CD player. As a gift, Chuck modified a Fisher 400 receiver that I bought for (yes) 10 bucks. It is one of my most treasured possessions. I do hope you get an opportunity to experience it. Chuck is extremely humble and his appreciation of the famous designers/manufacturers listed above would make their families proud. What they were able to offer the public for so little money is very appealing to Chuck. Thank you so very much for adding some well-deserved recognition for my heroes!" - Billygoat

See, I told you that Bill values his friendships. In case you're wondering, it was he that insisted I introduce them to you, which I'm happy to do. It was a genuine pleasure sharing time with such good-natured company who also happened to know which recordings to break out of Bill's collection for a good time. It was great meeting you guys. Let's do it again sometime! And if I ever have a speaker that needs repairing or improving, I sure know now who I'm gonna call - Billygoat, the ghostbuster of bad speaker karma.
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