Long story, used to have a Technics SLB2 with Kef Coda 3 and Rotel RA840 - fun
Dual 501/AT95 - fun in a splish splashy way
Thorens TD318/Miltec Aurora HOMC- not much fun - dull, rolled off and plodding - what do you expect with a hunk of MDF and leaf springs?
Linn LP12/K9 with Cambridge Audio integrated - better but not great.
Added a Cyrus 2 which was dreadful - brash and dry, sibilant and colored.
Added a Audiolab 8000C/P - no fun - dull and plodding.
Added Monitor Audio 352 speakers - lots of fun - lovely woody sound - captured the emotion in the music.
Swapped the preamp for a first model Croft Micro - utterly transformed. Replaced all resistors with Holcos and doubled up power supply and changed the ECC83s to Telefunkens. Replaced ECC82 with a Brimar CV5042 black plate.
Added a Croft Series 4 Power Amp - better.. until...
I added a Michaelson and Austin TVA1 with MO/GEC KT88s which blew the Series 4 away.
Added a Decca Super Gold - great when it was in the mood but the Ittok combo was in pain.
Added Ortofon X3 Turbo - better but lost something. At least it played without jumping off the table.
Added bronze Quad ESL 57 - removed many veils but creaked and vibrated.
Added Leak Stereo 20 - I rebuilt this lovely but under-powered amp with new caps and Holco resistors.
Added Spendor SP2s - put some veils back up but at least I could listen without torment.
TVA blew up a KT88 - replaced precious MOs with a quad of GE 6550 - better bass, lost the magic midband. 
Also had a Thorens 160 and Garrard 301 with a Grace 707.
Went abroad, packed it all away for 10 years.
Added a $700 Garrard 401 to a $400 birch ply plinth/Jelco 750L arm and the old the Decca that I was going to throw away. - WTH? Amazing sound.
Added new Croft Micro 25 - swapped JJs for The Telefunkens that were in the old Croft - better - and then GE JG5751 black plates - way better. The sound came forward and the soundstage flattened a little but... the timbre/detail/color and blackness improved dramatically and the speakers disappeared.
TVA went dead. It's up on blocks waiting for a late night attempt to fix it... but the HT is dangerous on this beast. If anyone wants it, contact me.
Added rebuilt EICO HF35s - better - wonderful amps - fabulous.
Added black Quad ESL57s - added home-made 20" solid oak stands - no vibrations, no weirdness - just fantastic. Matching serial #s. 
I use $12 Belkin Gold interconnects (thrashed a number of $200+ cables) and 12 gauge UP-OCC for speaker wire.
Garrard - pros - rock solid stability, image, rhythm, foot tapping, delicacy - bells shimmer, speed - you can see the snares shake on the drum and see the color of the different notes.

UPDATE 10/13 - Got a John Wright paratrace re-tip and the Decca is transformed. See post below 10/28/2013.

Replaced Croft Micro 25 phono preamp with the R version. While not a huge difference, there is a lower noise floor, better bass, more tonal color and a snapping into focus of the imaging. If you are running these amps with stock JJ tubes, you are not hearing them at their potential.

Update 12/2017 - Added Audio Grail Sable Garrard 401 and Jim Campbell slate plinth. Replaced oak table with metal and maple stand. See pics. AudioSilente idler - just do it - best $100 spent. Transformed. 

Update 5/18 - Upgraded Jelco 750 to TK-850L 12inch with Ammonite collar. Essential.

Update 10/18 - Upgraded the aluminum Audiosilente idler to the twice-as-heavy stainless steel Artisan Fidelity idler. Just do it. New heights. You will thank me.

Update 12/21/18 - Replaced platter with Classic Turntable Company 20mm oversized aluminum platter. Excellent improvement to bass - gone is the plummy boom, now tight and colorful. Increased focus all round and better speed stability is noticeable.

Update 6/19 - Replaced metal rack with 4 concrete blocks. I've never been happy with the metal stand. I had it lying around and it was better than the old oak table. The concrete is a huge improvement in sound quality. Huge soundstage, improved stability of images, tighter and more tuneful bass. 

Update 7/19 - Added JW rebuilt (with extended line contact) Garrott Bros Decca Gold Microscanner

Update 8/19 Added SPH grease bearing to 401 - significant improvement. Blackness, stability and excellent highs.

Update 12/19 Croft 25R. Replaced electrolytic reservoir cap with Clarity TC film cap and phono loading and stopping resistors with Vishay Z foil naked bulk foil resistors. Excellent upgrade. Cleaner, more transparent with voices sounding more human.

Updated 6/2/20 - Added SPH 12" carbon fiber tonearm.
Updated 9/20 - Added Nobsound springs to turntables and amps. See my springs under tuntable post/thread.

Room Details

Dimensions: 40’ × 25’  X large
Ceiling: 8’

Components Toggle details

    • Garrard 401
    Refurbished Audio Grail Sable Early Twin-spark 401 in 22"x17"x2" Jim Campbell Pennsylvania slate plinth. Precision Audio Components oversize aluminum platter, Artisan Fidelity stainless steel idler, SPH Aluminum/POM grease bearing.
    • SPH tonearm Carbon Fiber 12" tonearm
    SPH 12" tonearm
    • Jelco TK-850L 12" tonearm
    12" with Ammonite collar.
    • Jelco TK-850S 9" tonearm
    Added this for second cartridge.
    • Decca London Gold Garrott Brothers "Microscanner" Decapod
    Refurbished by John Wright with line contact stylus.
    • Decca London Super Gold with Paratrace and Decapod
    I almost tossed this away once. Rebuilt twice by John Wright. Added Decapod in 2019
    • Decca Grey Export Garrett Brothers
    Grey Export Garrett Brothers line contact with a side-screw Decapod-like mounting. Checked and cleaned by John Wright.
    • Audio Technica VM750SH
    Bought this to see what a good economy MM sounded like.
    • Croft Micro 25R
    3x Shuguang Custom 12AX7 LS in phono and buffer stage. 2x Telefunken ECC83 smooth plates in regulator. Vishay naked Z-foil resistors, Clarity TC reservoir cap., BLE Design OFC power cable.
    • EICO HF-35 monoblocs by Stu Remmington
    Rebuilt by Stu Remmington with 3 chokes/PIO caps/triode stage running Shuguang Black Treasure 12AX7LS and new Tung Sol 7581A which are fantastic. Psvane 6SN7 globes are illuminating.
    • Quad ESL 57
    Original pair of black Quad ESL 57. Consecutive #s. I have them on home-made 18" stands. I'm running them with the grills off.
    • Garrard 401 birch ply plinth 401
    AudioGrail 401 in 5 sheets of 22 layer birch ply with 1/3" solid walnut top. 1/2" solid maple sides. Audiosilente idler. 3 brass feet.
    • Jelco SA-750L
    On my second 401.
    12" tonearm with Expressimo Audio brass stub and counterweight and Ammonite base.
    • Croft Acoustics Micro 25
    Telefunken ECC83 and Grant Fidelity Shuguang 12AX7LS.
    • Eico HF-35 monoblocs
    Recapped with 7581A power tubes, Mullard 10M /Bugle-Boy EF86, GE 6SN7.
    • Spendor SP2/2
    Still going strong after over 30 years on my second rig.
    • REL Acoustics S3 MKII SHO
    Impressive sub. Blows away previous Strata 3.

Comments 81

Added a Samsung 65" 4k TV to the second system. Why have I waited so long? This may seriously challenge the vinyl experience!


Beautiful new tonearm !!!!! Wow


Amazing system. Very curious about your slate vs wood plinths experiments. Sent you a PM.


@scar972 Back at you with the great gear. Amazing. How do you find the Jelco? I have a few.


Hi Anthony. Thanks. My walnut later model 401 neon works. It needs the 110v bulb. The original won't strike at 110v. My slate early 401 neon is disconnected for better(?) sound.


noromance Very nice collection of gear, congrats!
I'm a fellow 401 owner. I was wondering if your 401 strobe light illuminates, I live in the US with our 120V main and it doesn't light up my bulb, trying to determine if the issue is elsewhere.
Cheers, Anthony


@noromance I  can't believe I've never seen or commented on your system before! Well done I love vintage gear and so jealous of your 401! It's awesome you have the DIY skills to upgrade your gear and especially vintage tube amps. Lovely basement hideaway and I'm sure it sounds amazing!


Great story of your hi-fi journey. Best part is you kept on track for better sound, not just changing from boredom.


Hey Sub! Great to see your slabs! Your rig looks solid. Great room.


Hey man - 

A.) Sick rig!
B.) Thanks for the comment you left a while ago about the paper coffee filters acting as shims on my concrete and barn board stereo cabinet set up! I went out and got some patio stones and, weirdly, I think I can hear a difference. It's subtle, but things are a little tighter is the best way I can describe it. Many thanks!!


hi Brian, have you heard from the SPH Bearing man lately? He's supposed to contact me when he's ready to make another batch. Been a long time now, though.


Ag insider logo xs@2xislandmandan

Added Vishay z foil resistors to Croft 25R phono preamp. Wow, what an improvement.  Clearer, faster, blacker, vocalist and instruments more fleshed out and more human. I'd like to replace more.


Thanks K4rstar! I may persue moew older vintage tables and arms some day and a Grey Research is on the wishlist as long as it works with my Deccas which it should.


Great looking system. I am a fan. I know you just got the new Jelco and are unlikely to replace it any time soon. But I would suggest looking into an oil-damped unipivot like a Gray Research clone. I think it would suite your system well.


Hi Dan, I sent you a PM.


Hello Noromance,

I searched online regarding the SPH bearing, and can't find any info about where, or how, to buy one. Do you have that information?


Ag insider logo xs@2xislandmandan

Hi Rothwea. It's been one of my big upgrades. It's so cheap to undertake and no biggie if it doesn't work out. Not sure how it would work on a non-concrete floor. Main improvement is a feeling of solidity and stability resulting in better defined notes and blackness.


No romance, thanks for all the notes about your system changes. It's a great read. I am very interested to read about your experience of changing from a conventional metal rack to concrete blocks. This is a move I am considering and it has been recommended top me by someone else.


@jond Yes, they've settled down somewhat. However, I think if you think they're bright, they don't lose that attribute, the frequency response evens out.
@tzh21y - Thanks!


great job.  great setup.


@noromance  Interesting you say you find the Psvane 6SN7 bright I had a quad of their Philips reproduction metal base EL34s and found them unacceptably bright. I sold them after just a few weeks. Have those 6SN7's gotten warmer?


Added a black aluminum 20mm oversized platter to the slate plinth 401. Beautifully made. I did some listening tests before and after swapping out on a number of tracks (after all the tubes were warmed up for an hour.) Definite increase in bass control. I've been having some issues with a little bloom in the low end which have been tamed. Color, speed and focus -especially in the mid bass- is improved by a considerable margin. The sound stage narrowed a little for the first few tracks but seemed to be result of improved focus and increased stability of image placement. An upgrade, at around $750 inc s/h that puts a smile on the face.


Swapped out AudioSilente idler wheel (c. $120 shipped) for an Artisan Fidelity idler ($394 shipped). See review in forum.


I have been lucky to have obtained over the years a collection of 50s to 70s jazz and blues records. The recordings are wonderful (pre-digital) and full of life. Huge dynamics, see- thru transparency, colorful, detailed, quiet.


@jond Thanks for the feedback.  
The Croft is outstanding. I just wish it was tweakable but it is so tightly built, it is very difficult to swap caps etc. An OFC mains cord and Shuguang black 12AX7LS tubes elevated its performance far beyond stock.
I just added Psvane globe 6SN7 to the EICOs. Tremendous increase in detail and transparency. They are a little bright but not run in yet. 


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