Do it Yourself Tube Audio - A Glowing Hobby



High end audio has been a rewarding hobby for me and this page is a place to share this passion with fellow audiophiles. I document my various projects with a hope that others will find the information helpful and most all that they will find the same enjoyment of this great hobby.
-- Chris

An Overview of My Audio System

  • Teres Audio Certus 440 direct drive turntable
  • Teres Illius tonearm
  • Soundsmith The Voice cartridge
  • Artemus Labs PH-1 phono stage
  • DIY passive preamp with Bent Audio / Slagle auto-former attenuator
  • DIY 4 way line level crossover
  • DIY 75TL mono-blocks (midrange horns)
  • DIY LM3886 Chipamp amplifiers (tweeters and bass horns)
  • Haffler DH220 amplifier (sub-woofers)
  • Cogent True to Life horn speakers
  • Modified Ionovac plasma tweeters
  • DIY T-Line sub-woofers
  • DIY Tube DAC
  • MHDT Paradisea DAC
  • Bolder Cable interconnects, speaker cables and power cords
  • Teres model 255 and 320 turntables
The majority of my system components are either DIY or are commercial products that have been modified and upgraded. See the sidebar for details. Some of the components listed have been either retired or are no longer in my main system.

Background

Audio has been a rewarding, long time hobby. I put together my first stereo system when I was 12. It was a cheap mono record player that I added a second amp into and fitted with a stereo cartridge. I built my first, from scratch, stereo amp when I was 16. A 50 watt transistor amp that sounded terrible, but at least it looked nice. Over the years I built a lot of speakers and modified amps and CD players. However, the hobby took a major turn in 1997 when I bought my first tube amps, a pair of EICO HF-22 mono-blocks. This was my first real glimpse of audio nirvana. The EICO's ended up being a wonderful test-bed for experimenting with different amplifier topologies. With these amps I was able learn first hand the sonic effects of, negative feedback, triodes vs. pentodes, single ended vs. push pull, etc...

After a lot of experimentation the EICO's ended up being configured for single ended operation with no feedback and using Sovtek 6B4G's output tubes. A big step forward from the already musical sound of the stock amps.

As is true with any good audiophile my system is never finished and always evolving. Here are a few pictures of the evolution:

May 2000 - Ariel speakers and relatively new 845 amplifiers are the core of my system at this point. The main source is a DIY tube DAC using a modified Phillips CD player as a transport. Note the Thorens TD165 to the side. This was my first venture into high end analog. With some work the Thorens sounded very satisfying. There were some obvious flaws compared to a good DAC. But in spite of the flaws the Thorens was generally more musically satifiying than CD. The Thorens wetted my appetite for analog and propelled me into the Teres project.
Nov 2000 - Later in 2000 I had completed a turntable from the Teres project (serial #1), added a Loesch preamp and equipment stands. The tonearm is a Tri-planar with a Benz Glider cartridge. At this point I was fully hooked by the goodness of analog.
Dec 2001 - The bigest addition in 2001 was a dedicated listening room. A dedicated power panel and rigid walls made for a nice upgrade. Initially the room had some issues that were later tamed with tube traps. I also added some DIY T-Line subwoofers.
Mar 2004 - This picture shows some major system changes. The turntable is now a Teres model 340 with a Schroder Reference tonearm and a Koetsu Urushi cartridge. The room sounded particularly good thanks to a lot of DIY tube traps. The speakers are Edgarhorn Titans that my father lovingly veneered with hand cut Cocobolo. The Edgarhorns were my first venture into the world of horns. I loved what they did right, superb detail and of course great dynamics. But I had a hard time with poor imaging and a rather aggressive, unforgiving character. Still a nice overall upgrade from the Ariel's.
Nov 2006 - The arrival of Cogent field coil horns was easily the most significant upgrade to my system. The Cogent horns gave me all of the detail and dynamics that I loved about the Edgarhorns with none of the negatives. The Cogent's are remarkably laid-back with none of the shoutiness that is common with horn systems. In addition the Cogent's offer a deep and wide sound-stage that is unlike any horn speaker that I have ever heard. The imaging and ease is on par with the best cone speakers without giving up any of the great horn attributes. The amplifiers have been reworked to use 75TL output tubes. Significantly, the turnable is now a beautiful Teres Certus model 460 with a 340 pound Gibraltar stand. I wish that I still had this work of art.
Dec 2013 - This is the latest. The analog source is a Teres 440 turntable, Teres Illius tonearm and a Soundsmith The Voice cartridge. Note the Ionovac Plasma Tweeters that fill out the top end. The Plasma tweeters are simply unequaled by any other type of tweeter. However they cannot play as loud as the horns. They are fine for most music, but when you want to play rock at near concert levels they have to be turned down to avoid distortion. The system is now quad amp'ed with 4 separate stereo amplifiers. Last but not least this is a new, larger room in our new home.

E-Mail Chris