Guest post: Shines pays Clippy a visit
So, a short while back, that has since turned into a long time, I shows up at Clip's place with assorted beers, which previous experience suggests works better than "Open sesame". Seeing as this a blog on stereos, let's get the beer thing out of the way first. Top tip: avoid smoked beer. Raising a bottle to my lips, it smelled of BBQ. "Strange," I thought, but interesting. Damn near tasted of BBQ too, but alas, closer to ashtray.
Thankfully, the remainder of the selection met with our approval. On to the sounds...
Let's begin with a disclaimer: as with all vicarious accounts of sonics, particularly those online, your prior position should be that I can't be trusted. Let me assuage some of your doubts. First, I am a *very* experienced listener, in fact, I have been listening for pretty much my entire life, beginning inside the womb, actually. Which, incidentally, is good for Lowther shout (more of which later).
Secondly, as my Q-tips will attest, I am quite the golden ear.
Anyways, the great thing about visiting Clips is your never quite sure what he's going to serve up. In my case, the speakers were the EMIA Field Coil Lowthers on rear loaded horns, driven by a 4304CB amp. Clips spun a record.
Initial impression: what the hell? These Lowthers were -somehow - smooth. Wha? Ordinarily, I'm not a fan of "fullrange" drivers, and in particular, *lowth* anything with a whizzer, but in this case, the usual banshee howl was gone. In its place: velvety, microtextured, gentle and relaxed (i.e. correct) sonics. Really very nice indeed. That field coil must be doing a lot more to the Lowther than just running a few lines of flux through its steel gizzards.
Again - I think the concept of a one-way speaker is a non-starter, at least for the stuff I like to listen to, but I would *gladly* build a front-horn loaded system around these puppies providing the midrange. I know that since my visit, they've been played in the big Azuras and relieved of bass duty. Would love to hear that setup some time.
Another beer interlude, and now that I had loosened up, Dave proceeded to fuck me up. To clarify: he asked me to compare two autoformer volume controls, identical save for the windings - one copper, one silver. I listened in that order, thinking, yeah, I'm probably gonna struggle to hear the difference, but I might probably convince myself that the silver sounds brighter up top, and confidently relay that back to him, so as to preserve some measure of Aural Cred with the EMIA boys and - erm - that's it.
No. No way. Not in a thousand years.
This messed me up. First thought was that the silver sounded just a little bit duller. A few seconds later: it's actually quite a lot softer, more relaxed - in a good way. A short while later, and I'm relaxed, enjoying "This one's for Blanton" -(incidentally, I gather this is a bit of an audio cliche disc, but having not heard it before, I actually really liked it). Just as I'm zoning out, Dave shouts from the control room (upstairs): would I like to switch back to the copper? Well, this ain't the time for enjoying the music, this is the time to figure how to enjoy the music more in future. So...
Back to the copper. It now sounded harsh and disjointed, almost distorted by comparison. A bit of back and forth... it was easy to pick out which - I asked Dave to switch stuff randomly and "blind" to make sure.
This, my fellow junkies, has so messed me up that it has even got me thinking of going scorched earth for OTL, for the simple reason that I can't afford the good stuff... and the thing is, the copper actually sounds quite lovely until you hear otherwise.
Confession: my textile ears have never been much good at picking out differences between passive components. It's probably why I love playing with different speaker drivers over other stuff. This, OTOH, was so damned obvious that I dread to think how miles apart MC step-ups in Ag vs Cu might be.
I don't want to think about this any more, at least, not until Silver hits 3 bucks an ounce again. Yah.
More beers, more records, a bit of post-midnight meat (ribeye and peppers on the grill). I'm absolutely zonked and ready to crash, but somehow, Clips persuades me that - at 2:30am - it would be a capital idea to stack some 80% nickel lams into some bobbins (thankfully, already wound and around), and compare to the amorphous outputs we had been listening to...the previous day.
Now I know why this site is called what it is. I must have inhaled 3 lungfuls of the mysterious fine powder that the lams came coated with. Clips assured me it was the manufacturer's proprietary coating - gotta admit, it made sense - you want high resistivity between laminations, that's the whole point of lams in the first place, and what keeps your transformer eddy current losses low, but erm, don't most guys apply some kind of varnish or lacquer coating? Hmmmm....
Dave checks the gap and characteristics on the bridge, pronounces the transformers healthy, and one of us has to wire these OPTs into the amp running at 1kV... ok, so my bronchioles are now nicely lined with lam powder and there's therefore no way a current can conduct across my chest, but not for nothing do they call him Clips. I return to the listening chair downstairs.
I've been rambling, so long story short. Amorphous: clean, crisp leading edge, clear. Nickel: big, billowing soundstage, very relaxed, built for comfort not speed.
*Somewhat* like copper vs silver respectively; but here - as Dave is fond of saying - we are talking a difference in flavour. In the former case (geddit?) - the silver/copper thing is more like eating your food vs having it delivered through a tube.
This has me thinking that an amorphous/silver combo might have a very, very interesting blend of sonics, but for now, I am confident that ye brethren would be absolutely delighted with 80% nickel.
Perfect Tracking - Gray Research - http://www.itishifi.com