The Master Woodbutcher’s
Home Theater Page

Heathkit AR13 receiver

Heathkit AR13 Receiver

  I’ve been interested in music for as long as I can remember, and I’ve had some sort of music playing equipment available to me since I was 5. When I was 18 I convinced my parents to let me build a Heathkit AR13 receiver for the home stereo, which represented a quantum leap in our music system at the time.
Heathkit AR15 receiver

Heathkit AR15 Receiver

  A few years later, I built an AR15 for my own apartment, which served me well for almost 18 years.
Fisher XP12 speakers

Fisher XP12 Speakers

  I really enjoyed that stereo and the Fisher XP12 speakers I had found in a stereo store at a closeout price. That theme would repeat itself over the years. Not only were these pretty decent sounding speakers back in the day, they were pieces of furniture, as well. I don’t remember the exact dimensions (and can’t even remember what I did with them), but they were 24" high, 22½" wide, and 13¾" deep. Try to find speakers like that now. Update: In cleaning out a storage unit, I found I had indeed kept the Fishers. Now, what to do—what to do? Of course they won’t replace the Amritas, but they ought to be good for something. Rebuild, maybe?

Final Update: On the cusp of a renovation of our back porch, where the Fishers have been sitting for some time, I elected to bite the bullet and dispose of them. I’ve had them for nearly 50 years, haven’t used them in twenty five, didn’t cost that much when I bought them—they owe me nothing. I thought about Craig’s List, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort. I’ll give the neighborhood salvage guy a shot at them They’re out by the street now.

Final coda (which I think is redundant): I slept in, but a neighbor reported the salvage people took a wrought iron table I had out, and looked at the Fishers but didn’t take them. When the WM crew came around, they took a good look at the speakers. Then they loaded the Fishters in the back, but didn’t run the ram down. We’re convinced one of our waste disposal specialists is sporting a set of vintage speakers/furniture in their home now. I’m satisfied.

Dual 1229 changer

Dual 1229 Changer

  Don’t laugh—back in the day, vinyl was king and a good turntable/changer was necessary to put electrons into amps and pressure waves into the listening room. Serious audiophiles then would scoff at my Fishers and my Dual, but for the home hobbyist, the 1229 was pretty good. Despite the below, I still have mine—including base and dust cover—although I’m bereft of vinyl and will remain so.

Another Update: The 1229 was disposed of a couple of years ago. I think I donated it to the local senior center (along with a tube type TV). I’m leaving it on this page to help me reminisce every now and again.

Yet another Update: Just for grins, I did a search on YouTube for “Dual 1229” and it seems to be quite a popular title. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem to be considered to be in the hobbyist category, either. In addition, with the ongoing swoon over vinyl (unexplainedly) it’s attracted quite a bit of attention from the golden ear fanboys who don’t want to spend thousands to listen to their scratchy, dusty records.

When the CD format started to take off in the ’80s, I got an el-cheapo player and it was immediately evident that I was lacking in horsepower with the now tired, old Heathkit. Having a remote with the CD player made me lust for remote control for the stereo system, and the seeds of discontent started to sprout.

actual magazine cover

Stereo Review

  Coincidentally, I had taken one of our kids to the library and while they worked on their project, I flipped through the magazines. I happened across the November, 1986, issue of Stereo Review in which they tested and reviewed the Adcom GFA-555. I was stunned. Here was an essentially bullet proof amplifier with all the goo I could hope for at a reasonable price.

GFA555 amplifier

GFA-555 Amplifier

  Within days I bought my own copy of the magazine and kept re-reading the review (I still have the magazine). There was nothing I could find fault with. I located a dealer in a nearby town and went to look. It was impressive.
Of course a preamp would be necessary for switching sources, and the salesman pointed me to their (Adcom’s) low end model that was sitting with the ’555. I said, "I wish they made it with a remote."

GTP500 tuner/preamp

GTP500 Tuner/Preamp

 “They do,” the salesman said, “the GTP-500. We have one here in the next room.”
I was toast. My wife was with me and she couldn’t stop me from drooling, or as it turned out, buying. They didn’t have the ’555 in stock and the salesman told me he wasn’t convinced I needed that much amp, so I left with a GFA545 (100 watts per channel) which they would take back at full price if I decided I really wanted the ’555.

They didn’t understand there was never a question, so two weeks later when the ’555 arrived, I happily returned the ’545. I didn’t even remember I had it years later as I was putting this page together. I recently found the receipt for the original transaction and the memories came flooding back—and the date. I bought this in 1987, nearly thirty years ago!

amrita Troppo speakers

Amrita Troppo Speakers

  The amp and preamp have been unbelievable. Of course they showed my tired old Fishers for the anachronisms that they were, and a set of Amrita Troppo speakers soon joined the Adcoms.

ProScan 52" Model 52682 rear projector TV
ProScan 52" TV

  Eventually, I got a big screen TV (ProScan 52" Model 52682) and started working toward home theater. Update: 17 July 2009. After 14 years of faithful service, the big screen bit the dust. Why didn’t I ever take a good picture of it? There is virtually nothing about it on the ’net. This image is the only one I have, and it was for another purpose and the TV is only in it by accident. Anyway, I’m temporarily squinting at an old faithful Sony 19" while waiting to pull the trigger on a flat screen.
Sony 52" Bravia Model KDL52XBR7 LCD TV
Sony 52" TV

  The ProScan was replaced (and we leapt into the 21st Century) by getting this Sony flat screen LCD TV. It has just about all the features I wanted and complements the rest of the theater system beautifully. Plus, it’s 1080p and has unbelievably vibrant, saturated colors, just as I have experienced with three previous Sony TVs.

Surprisingly, although an equal diagonal measurement of a wide screen compared to a conventional (4:3) TV tends to make the wide screen look smaller, this one gives the impression of being as large or larger than the ProScan. That may be due to the fact it sits fully three feet higher than the ProScan.
Sony 55" Bravia Model XBR55X930E
Sony 55" TV

  Update: after roughly eight credible years of service, the Sony, too, bit the dust, and in a frenzy we hit Best Buy that very day and came home with this Sony XBR55X930E. I’m not sure what all the numbers denote, except that it’s a 55" screen—marginally larger than the one it replaced. It’s not really noticeable, but what is noticeable is that the picture is even higher definition than the old Sony, and the colors are richer and more vibrant by an order of magnituded. It took only minutes of watching to see the difference. I’m a little miffed at some of the connection options (no VGA for computer output, for example, and no dual RCA audio output—3/16" headphone stereo instead), but there are built in apps for Netflix and YouTube which are much easier to work with than what we’d been doing, through our BluRay player. Thumbs up, for now.

Over the years I found some good bargains on various pieces of equipment and wound up with the following system:
GFA555 amplifier
GFA555 Amplifier
  2nd GFA-555 (I stole it at my local stereo supplier in a window of opportunity that was probably only 10 minutes wide. Since the ’555 is capable of bridged operation, I have them set up as monoblocks. I run a kilowatt of audio!)

GTP600 surround sound processor/preamp
GTP-600 Processor
 Adcom GTP-600 surround sound tuner/preamp/processor. I love this. It switches all of my audio and video lines. All of my equipment has S-video connections, too, which it handles.
GTP860 II surround sound processor/preamp
GTP-860 II Processor
 My GTP-600 died in suspicious circumstances. I looked for a replacement and found this Adcom GTP-860 II surround sound tuner/preamp/processor, which had apparently come and gone in Adcom’s line when my system was in storage. I think I’m going to like this even more than the ’600. In addition to switching all of the lines described above, it provides an on screen display and setup menu. Naturally it handles the S-video connections, as above.

I was too optimistic. The GTP-860 was, for all intents and purposes, DOA. It was purchased used from Affiliated Electronics in New Jersey (also doing business as TeVe21), and I highly recommend you not do any business with them. It worked for a grand total of about six days—three days on each side of a six week long return/repair exercise (and with their warranty clock ticking the whole time). I don’t think unscrupulus is too strong a word, nor is thief. They refused to make good on what was clearly a defective piece of merchandise.
Outlaw 990 surround sound processor/preamp
Outlaw 990 Processor
 I was desparate to find an affordable pre/pro so I could get the system back on line and stumbled across this. It is highly regarded according to reviews, so we’ll see if it lives up to the billing once I get it set up. The price certainly was right. Among all of its other features, it has mag phono inputs. Maybe I’ll un-retire my Dual. Update: August 2010—short version—I love it! Further: December 2017, corrected the nomenclature—it’s actually a 990, not 900. Still love it.
GFA2535 dual amplifier
GFA2535 Dual Amplifier
  GFA-2535 dual amp for driving rear speakers (100 watts each) and center speaker (150 watts). Essential for a surround sound system.
Paradigm 110C Center Channel Speaker
Paradigm 110C
Center Channel Speaker
  Of course there’s no point in having a great amp like the ’2535 if you don’t have a center and a couple of rear speakers to drive. I originally had a KEF in the center but blew the drivers out twice. A fortuitous birthday check from Mom enabled me to pick up this Paradigm which is working well so far. Mine is black as shown.
Realistic Rear Channel Speaker
Realistic Rear Channel Speaker
  The rears are an embarrassing pair of closeout Radio Shack speakers. Cheap, but good enough for rears. Nothing special—sound fine. I found a nice pair of swivel mounts for them, and the wire for this one, the right rear, was fished into the wall when the roofers replaced a section of sheating right over where I needed to drill a hole in the top plate. I’d have had to put a big hole in the wall if it hadn’t been for the re-roof. Yes, that’s the color in my media room—light sucking Bordeaux (in the blow-up image).

Mirage BPS150 subwoofer
Mirage BPS150
  Mirage BPS150 150 watt powered subwoofer. I was really excited to get this baby back in line (several years ago, now). Very impressive performance, day in and day out.

This image isn’t very exciting. It’s a box, and it sits anonymously behind the right front speaker. There are grill covers on the drivers, but, boy, when there’s some bass in the content, it really lets you know! 12" drivers and 150 watts of its own power.

GCD600 CD changer
GCD600 CD Changer
  Adcom GCD-600 5 disc CD changer. I can’t wait to get this back in line. Playing CDs through the DVD player is okay, but I really like the features of the changer.

Rats! This thing has died now. I’m still okay playing CDs, as above, but there are advantages to a CD specific player (preferrably a changer) that still compels me, so I have to start another search. I’m sorry to say I think I’m done with Adcom.

  The CD player/changer market has changed dramatically with the advent of DVDs. Yes, that’s how far back my changer dates. When I went looking for a replacement, nothing suitable could be found. I dislike the delay in loading CDs in a DVD player, so I asked around for some thoughts. Someone suggested a music server. I checked—not cheap. Then I found out about HTPCs (Home Theater PC). The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Since I had built several PCs, and I was already fooling with Linux, and had a hard drive available, it seemed like a natural choice. Again, with the short story—I’m thrilled.

The case pictured is unremarkable insofar as describing the HTPC—more can be made of the mother board (mobo), the chip, and the size of the hard drive—Asus M4A78A, Athlon Dual Core 245, 320 gB. The top half of the front panel is a hinged door concealing the DVD drive and the card reader/USB port. I guess I should mention the wireless mouse and wireless keyboard… Surfing the ’net from my theater seat on the big screen isn’t bad, either.

Sony TC-RX70ES cassette deck
Sony TC-RX70ES
Casette Deck
  Sony TC-RX70ES casette player. This is a very nice tape player. However, my new vehicle has a CD changer in it, so I don't know how many tapes I’ll be cutting in the future. Right now it’s in the computer suite and apparently in full and permanent fail mode.
Mitsubishi HS-U760 Super VHS VCR
Mitsibushi HS-U760
  I had three of these—one for regular use, one for dubbing, and a spare. I think I’m about done with VHS now, though, so they’ve been bid an unceremonious farewell. Hope the neighborhood salvage guy can make use of them.
Panasonic CLD D504 laser disc player
Panasonic CLD D504
Laser Player
  Panasonic CLD D504 laserdisc player. Time and technology moves on. I’ll probably phase this out eventually just like I did my Teac reel-to-reel tape machine and my Dual 1229 record changer. Still, I have the space, the inputs, and some source that I haven’t duplicated in DVD. No hurry to retire it, I guess.

BSR 4000XR graphic equalizer/spectrum analyzer
BSR 4000XR
Graphic Equilizer
  BSR 4000XR spectrum analyzer/equalizer (the spec/an is fun to watch, tape switching is great, I never use the equalizer). To be honest, I haven’t had this in line for several years, now.

It’s sad that DAK, the distributor for this unit went out of business. I wouldn’t mind having an updated version of this. DAK’s back. I just found a website for it/him. Do a search on DAK2000. Seems like it’s a work in progress.
Sony DVP-S560D DVD player
Sony DVP-S560D
DVD Player
  I added a DVD player a few years back—a Sony DVP-S560D. Unfortunately, it quit playing after a while. I temporarily used a $49 POS while trying to get the Sony repaired.

Sony DVP-NC80V DVD Changer
Sony DVP-NC80V
DVD Player
  The POS is gone, as is the S560D, whose failure turned out to be terminal. It’s sort of like the Sony version of Micro$oft’s Blue Screen of Death I’ve since found out. I replaced it with this changer (I wanted a changer anyway), and so far am very happy with it.

I didn’t have the whole surround system set up in the condo, but I still enjoyed the sights and sounds. I just recently completed the media room and am in the process of hooking everything up. I’ve had the TV, VCRs, and DVD hooked up for some time but, oh, man, will that media room be something.

Everyone that has heard the system marvels over it. I’ve had serious music aficionados praise it. When my kids were living at home they would dazzle their friends with it. My son’s friends in particular, when they were college age, would come to our house because we clearly had the best sound system around. I get such pleasure every time I play some music through it, that I can’t believe I really have a system that sounds this nice.

And of course, I still have the magazine that started it all.

Last updated: 19 January 2018

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