Friday, July 17, 2015

Amp Slummin'

Notice anything wrong with my audio system in this photo? For those of you wondering why I don't have my usual Unison Research or PureAudio amps in the system, I kind of sold them all. That little black box you see on the upper left of the equipment rack wasn't a back-up amp, or even a back-up to the back-up amp. It was almost a paperweight, a decoration. It's the old Rotel RB-930AX integrated amplifier I bought for my parents more than twenty years ago. Last year it started crackling in one channel. I opened the top and found a veritable paradise for dust bunnies inside. Cleaning the inside of the amp didn't fix the problems, so my parents bought a little Dayton Audio T-amp for $100 and gave me the Rotel--perhaps just to dispose of it. So it's been sitting on a bookcase, unused, ever since.

I've been sans amp for the last few weeks, and I just couldn't stand it anymore. I looked at the Rotel and thought, "Maybe it won't be that bad. If it is, maybe I can try to replace caps, resistors, whatever else might be worn out after many years of steady use." So I placed the Rotel on the empty space on my equipment rack that's been mocking me ever since I sold that last demo Triode 25, and I hooked everything up--which wasn't easy since the speaker binding posts on the back of the Rotel were small and flimsy and the only cables I have are big and bulky with heavy-duty spades. I turned everything on and started playing an album--Analogue Productions' reissue of Ben Webster at the Renaissance--and at first everything sounded pretty decent.

Then I heard it--a high-pitched buzz that meant something was going south, a cap, a transformer, whatever. I switched over to CD and the buzz was still there. I sighed, because the buzzing was loud enough so that I just couldn't listen around it. I shut everything down and started to watch something stupid on TV.

Right then, I had an idea. Furutech just sent me some of their newer power management products to try out, and possibly bring to future trade shows. I already have plenty of Furutech cabling and power management products on hand, since we partner with them at shows, but this stuff was new and therefore, hopefully, improved. They sent me the two-outlet GTX-D NCF receptacle box, which you see in the photo below, right next to one of the older versions of the GTX I have for comparison. I plugged it in another outlet on the other wall with Furutech's new FP-S032N power cable. I don't know the price of either product since these haven't been officially introduced yet. In fact, Furutech doesn't like me to talk about their new products in detail in advance of their availability, so I won't.

Suffice it to say that that high-pitched buzz went away immediately. I plugged the Furutech GTX-D box in the same outlet as my other power management equipment to eliminate the wall circuit, and yes, the high-pitched noise was still absent for the most part. The Rotel is still overall a little bit on the noisy side--at $300 MSRP back in the mid-'90s, this ain't quite high-end. But with the Furutech GTX in the system, this little amp became a nice, pleasant little amp. I remember all this budget-priced Rotel gear from twenty years ago and how nice it was for the money, and here's one of those products, a 30wpc integrated that was at the very bottom of the line, sounding more than adequate to this spoiled audiophile.

The 930 lacks the warmth and texture of my reference tube amplification--it sounds glassy and smoothed over and tidied up instead of a living, breathing human thing, but I'm getting plenty of soundstage depth, imaging and a fairly grain-free treble. Fortunately I have a couple of amplifiers returning to me in the next couple of weeks, so I'll take the Rotel out and get back to some serious sound. But until then, I'm going to keep my sanity.

No comments:

Post a Comment