Last week I gave away a stereo system. It wasn’t via Audiophile Review or Home Theater Review. It was a private gift with no tax-reducing or promotional benefits. And who was the recipient of my largesse? A musician whose work I have enjoyed for over fifteen years.
How did this come about? Simple – the musician asked me. We have been Facebook friends for quite a while and I we occasionally correspond. Out of the blue he sent me a message – “Hi, Steven. hope all’s well with you. As you know, I’ve been wanting to get a better music-listening system for years now. and the years keep going by without my being able to afford to invest in anything.
I know you review so many products and though you might have a little stockpile. so I’m wondering if you might have any gear laying around gathering dust that you’d be willing to lend or give to me. speakers, a CD player, a DAC, whatever.
I realize this is perhaps a long shot and I hope you don’t mind my being so forward. no expectations of course! the idea just occurred to me and I thought I’d ask. I sure know lots of musicians with all kinds of gear just laying around. I have some myself.”
My response was, “Hello XXXXX, if you had asked a couple of years back I would have definitely had something for you. When I moved to Denver I disposed of almost all my excess gear. But I will see if anything is left that you could use.” I thought about what I had that I could let go for a day or so and I wrote back, “I have some gear for you. Give me a call…”
What did I come up with? The first piece I was willing to part with was an Adcom 545 II power amplifier that I’d had for at least ten years. I bought it to use as a rear channel amp and it had served that purpose for a couple of years before it was replaced with a lower noise amp, the Perreaux P-110E. After that time, it had been sitting on the same shelf as a pair of Adcom 535 II amps.
A pair of NHT Super 0s that had served as my master bathroom’s speakers for thirteen years at my old and far larger residence were a good match for the Adcom. They are efficient enough for the Adcom to drive easily, but not sensitive enough to reveal the amp’s base noise level.
Because the NHT Super 0s are a small two-way design with somewhat limited low frequency response I added a subwoofer to the system. It was an Aperion unit that I had reviewed back in 2005, packed up, contacted the manufacturer about, and put into my garage awaiting a return response that obviously never came. I only discovered it late in my move when my wife said “That box is quite heavy for an empty box.”
Finding a DAC was the most difficult part to assemble for the system. I have several older portable DACs, but they don’t support higher resolution data/bit rates and I wanted to include something that would allow a system to play back anything that came from the studio. I finally settled on the Emotiva Big Ego portable DAC. It does all the modern formats and has enough power and finesse to handle most headphones (and it also can be used as a digital preamplifier when connected to a computer or accept an analog input.)
The last components needed to make this into a system were cables. I went into my cable stash and found a pair of 8-foot Discovery speaker cables that were at least 25 years old, but still serviceable. I also found a second set of 5-foot Straight Wire speaker cables which could be even older than the Discovery pair (the system needed a second pair of high level connections so that the subwoofer could be inserted between the power amp and the main speakers). For the connection between the DAC and the power amplifier I unearthed a no-name six-foot length of interconnect with a mini stereo on one end and RCAs on the other.
I assembled the system to make sure it all still functioned. Since I hadn’t used the power amplifier in at least five years I called on a heavy-duty Variac so that I could gradually power up the amplifier for the first time. After assembling all the pieces, I was encouraged to find that the system worked! Not only did it work it sounded quite nice with decent imaging, harmonic balance, and bass extension.
And why have I told you this tale of gifting and receiving? Not to prove what a good guy I am, because often I am not. But because it was, for me, an affordable way to give back to a musician whose work has given me pleasure over the years. And the takeaway from all this is that you, too, may have musician friends who would benefit from having a better way to monitor their creative output. If so, perhaps instead of selling via Audiogon you might want to consider the option of giving the gear to someone who could use it. No, you won’t get the same tax write-off as donating to a recognized charity organization, but you could help insure that someone’s music sounds better, not only for them, but for anyone else who enjoys their music.