My lo-fi “reference” system

As recently as a few months ago I had pretty much decided to give the final ax to my audio system. It had been a few years since I formally reviewed anything and decades since I worked in the high end, with the exception of my ongoing distribution of Harmony Design. Then I hedged a bit and considered dumping everything except for my beloved REGA P3, which I hope to keep and enjoy forever, and a yet-to-be purchased phono pre and headphone amp. For speakers, I had intended to go pro with something like a pair of outstanding Adam A7X. Pure simplicity.

But then, there’s always a then, have you noticed, I began to wonder if I could go forward by going backward, at least for now? Backward meant old. The REGA is old, the Rotel RA-1062 is old and I’m old. I’m on a streak. My first step towards old was a pair of passive speakers. Sure, the fantastic Role Audio Enterprise were taking a nap in my closet but are too big for the tiny room and the Rotel could never quite excite the Role’s bottom end. I started scouring Craigslist and you all know how that can be. One ad kept calling out to me, but I did my best to ignore it. It was for a pair of truly ancient Canton Karat 930 DC. Canton is a German company. They had tried to follow ADS into the US but they could never quite pull it off. The Karat has lot of what I need, especially a front port and not too much bass. These guys had to be able to make nice with a wall pretty much right behind them.

Charmingly enough, the pair on CL had a very fine hairline split that I wanted to see before I parted with my hard-earned $65. Yup, $65 for the pair. The guy who was selling them was a good guy, getting ready to take a new job in North Carolina. He said he was into ADS and had dreams of restoring the Karats Seen but unheard, I handed over my $65 and took them home.

The ECC/EU requires that binding posts not be spaced at .75″ so those silly Euros don’t plug and ungrounded AC cord into the inputs of their old Rogers LS3/5a. This leads them to use some non-standard (read: dicey) speaker terminals. The ones on the Karats secure enough but still I resolved not to test their integrity with spade lugs. Bananas! Old speakers love bananas.

Problem is that neither of the speaker cables I had on hand (both of which cost between seven and ten times what the Karats cost) used the lowly banana. As is so often is the case, the answer lay with thinking with the brain I used so in 7th grade. So, I ambled over to Home Depot and picked up a 12 foot, 16 AWG extension cord and got out the scissors. Voila! Two 6′ speaker cables.

To match the low-fi street cred of the rest of the system I also had the REGA downgraded. Not downgraded exactly, but I did send my Sumiko Blue Point Special EVO III to be restored which meant I needed a new and cheaper cartridge in the meantime. Since the REGA had been shimmed for the BPS I decided to go with another Sumiko, the MM Rainer. All of you MC guys can sneer but this little guy sounds great and tracks well. Installation was a snap but my hands are not as steady as they used to be.

The Karats are perched upon some no-name, MDF stands I also found on CL. Hey, they only wanted $22 for the pair but being the kind of guy I am I gave the seller $25 and told her to go out and have a party. That’s the kinda guy I am. I’ll admit that I intend to buy some carpet-piercing spikes for the stands. Until then, I just have to hope that the cat doesn’t think about how fun it would be to leap onto one of the Karats and send the whole thing, cat and all, toppling into the REGA. That’s not if but when. See Murphy’s Law.

Does the whole shebang look better in B&W? I didn’t think so. The headphones are my Beyer-Dynamic DT-990 Edition and my ancient but well-preserved Sennheiser HD-600. The HD-600s have done more international than I have, although that’s not saying much. They’ve been to Sweden, to help voice the Harmony Design, and Singapore when I tried to get an old friend of mine to distribute Harmony Design.

He didn’t go for it, but that’s Ok.

Have I owned my last high end system? I really don’t know. I do know that my lo-fi reference is fun and musical. Still, I am having some proper speaker cables made. I just know the extension cord is choking the Karats.

Golden ears never rest.

My lo-fi “reference” system