Mark MacWilliams was kind enough to be our host in St. Louis. I arrived in my typical fashion...late! I forgot to factor in big city travel time. Here in Cedar Rapids, you can get from one end of the city to the other in under 20 minutes, even in the worst traffic. Mark and Dave Sutton (who brought one of my favorite malted beverages-Killians Red) were waiting along with Kris (Numa) Bodenheimer, who drove from Columbia MO. along with Brian Gibson (originally from Scotland), from Carbondale, IL.


Numa had just received a pair of Ed Shilling's "The Horn" loudspeakers and was itchin' to hear them with a SET amp. They helped me haul my gear up the stairs and we all got down to hooking everything up.


We started off with my Foreplay (Hovlands, C4S on the 1st stage, and Bugle Boy 12AU7s) and the 2A3 parafeed, fixed bias amp I have been toying with lately (I'm still working on the hum issue with this one). Some Dylan in the DVD player and we took turns sitting in the sweet spot. The Horns surprised me with more low end than I thought a 4" driver could ever produce. These are speakers that you forget about and just listen to the music. On to some Miles Davis...I stopped at Best Buy on the way home and picked up my first Miles CD for the drive home. I still thought things did not sound as good as they could, so we swapped the Foreplay for a 5687 linestage that I built last week. You can see it on the table in the picture above, but I was too busy alternately listening and gabbing to pick up the camera and get pictures of it. I'll direct you HERE if you want a better look. There was more high end and it seemed a little tighter. I was much happier with this combo, but it still wasn't what I heard at home. Then we swapped out the 5691s for a pair of JAN 6SL7WGTs in the amp. Now that's more like it! Just plain better all the way around. More open, better mids, and quieter too. I wished we had more gear to compare. Mark's Audio Note was down for the time being...

Enter Carter Hendricks and Willie Rivers (drummerwill). Carter graciously offered many tidbits of information. I wish I could have spent more time picking his brain. I was doing my best to keep up on the conversations and still listen to some music too. Willie brought a just completed 26 linestage and a convertible amp that can run 45s, 2A3s, and 800Bs. In went the26 linestage.


What can I say besides "lush". Quite different than my 5687. Great texture and refinement. A little hum...we all talked about that and decided it was well worth enduring considering the sound we were hearing. Willie is right. After a few minutes, you adapt to the background noises and just get into the music. It's that good! At some point along the way, we had changed speakers and were listening to Mark's creations that I call "The Sex Cannons". I liked the low end that these produced but the upper mids were a little forward for my tastes, especially after listening to Numa's Horns. I heard something that struck me right though. They have potential in this form. 


Willie's amp was the aural highlight for me. It has 5842s driving the parafeed output section through a pair of Electra-Print interstages. It has switchable  B+ and filament voltages and he used some wirewound pots to change the cathode resistance.  Today he was running a pair of 183 tubes. He had Jack at Electra-Print build the OPTs with silver secondary windings.


Willie, the work you put into this amp really paid off. I think it put mine to shame in terms of flow and resolution. Even with less than half the power, it sounded so open and velvety. You can see Numa, Dave and Mark are listening intently. I obviously need to sell some of my SS gear and invest in some "real" OPTs. Willie's amp also taught me that a pot on the input is a great low cost addition that lets you change preamps, cables, or roll tubes in your linestage without powering everything down.

Now here is the one of the more intriguing items that I saw that afternoon.


It's Mark's compact 6BM8 Spud monoblock that's under construction. I wish they would have been running so we all could have been amazed at how such a compact little thing could make music.

I will also never forget the Italian meats, cheese, and bread that Mark graciously served. Mmm!! I was thinking of the tastes and sounds of the afternoon all the way home. It was definitely worth the 600 mile round trip drive!

Thanks to everyone for letting an Iowan invade your meeting...and Carter, I'm trying to remember every pointer you gave me...

...the bypass caps are in the 5687 already. Is 330uF enough?