Hifi Pig readers, Father and Son duo David (Dad) and Rob (Son) Stevenson share a love of music and a passion for vinyl reproduction. Here they tell their story of what they believe to be the key factor in music reproduction and replay.
David’s Hi-Fi Beginnings
It started with a cake delivery from my mum to my older cousin in 1960. Speech was not feasible in his room due to the volume of the music playing. He waved at the shaking sofa, motioning me to sit down. I obeyed and sat with the basses and a trumpeter on my nose as the Radford valve amp pounded his 12” coaxials in huge transmission line loudspeakers. A Shure V15 on Garrard turntable put the singer on my knee.
I was transfixed.
My initial set-up was a Garrard SP25 turntable with a Goldring 600 cartridge, a linear amp and DIY cabinets sporting 10” Fane coaxials, add a light dusting of Hendrix and the illusion was starting to take shape. Times, however, moved on and I got older and wiser, my tastes changed and widened and I had more cash to spend…but still not a lot.
After the Garrard SP25 I moved my way through various turntables, eventually ending up with a nice Heybrook TT2 and a trip to the ‘perfect sound forever’ promise that was CD, ending that era with the mighty Pioneer PD-91 CD spinner.
On my son Rob’s advice I paid a visit to the Technics SL1210Mk2 turntable, which readers will know was originally designed for Japanese audiophiles and adapted to take the money in the plonk it anywhere and play DJ scene. Basically, what I (aka Dad/navigator/is this broken music?) wanted was the 1812 that I’d just attended at Symphony Hall, right there in my room – just a 60 piece orchestra with cannons and bells and, to my mind, impossible for a small collection of wiggly cones and sundry electronics…a stupid expectation on my part really!
There’s no esoteric or exotic kit here, just attention to the factors that matter when thrift is master
Ears, the measurement tools that outsmart and out-perform any dials, computer programs or LEDs in my opinion. The 67 year old ears hear up to 10,000hz (on a good day), but at +\-5 dB that’s not exactly very high-fidelity! Thankfully the younger ones’ go much higher. My hifi education was honed at commercial shows, home demos, bake-offs and, importantly, through the demands of exhibiting at enthusiast shows and events. After years of listening and comparison I’ve come to the conclusion that these ears prefer the combination of art and science that is involved in music reproduction by good old vinyl… CD, streaming et al is sonically good, but vinyl means luxury “me time” and I believe worth the time and effort.
My idea of reproducing sound is of fast transients (as live), solid body to notes and interesting decays with clear harmonics. Big scale musical presentation with width and depth, lively dynamics and stop/start phrasing, clarity, subtlety and agility throughout. Well that’s easy then? Not really!
This hobby is a great way to meet like-minded folk, male and (increasingly) female, and have an in-depth, philosophical discussion, put the world to right and basically eat cake – why else would an informal gathering of music lovers and audiophiles be called a bake-off? Of course finding consensus amongst the gathered throng as to which bun is best is a challenge, but it’s also really interesting (and often contentious) when Whitesnake or Beethoven is cooking the air at 90dB+.
Through these meets it is possible to leave armed with information for educating one’s next hifi purchase decisions and for formulating the necessary rationale with which to lure any partner or significant other into saying “YES!” (To the purchase – I mean!).
Technics SL1210mk2 modified with a DIY outboard mains transformer and sorbothane feet mounted on a wall shelf
Funk Achromat with 500g brass weight
Goldring Eroica LX LOMC cartridge with Stevenson alignment
Rewired Rega RB300 arm
Origin Live steel arm plate with constrained layer damping underneath
Rothwell MCL step-up into an EAR 834 valve phono stage via low capacitance leads and a shielded mains lead
Yamaha PC4002M power amp with built in attenuators and updated circuits
Epos Epic 5 loudspeakers with an internal deflector modification behind the mid/bass driver and sorbothane pads between cab and stand
REL Quake sub woofer which operates lightly down from just below the Epics’ port output.
Cables by Wychwood Audionics/ Canare/Supra/ DIY
IKEA low mass furniture on bouncy floor and ceiling in heavily furnished 5 metre room
The first memory for me of meaningful music reproduction was of Barbara Dickson singing ‘January February’ via my Dad’s aforementioned Heybrook TT2 with a Linn Basik arm and cheap moving coil cartridge into a Lentek step-up transformer, Sansui AU-317 amp and JBL L50 loudspeakers that had adjusters for mid and treble!
My first realisation that changes in quality could be made was aged 12 years old when Supertramp’s Breakfast in America benefited from Dad’s platter-mat experiments, I could tell the difference between felt and rubber…it turned out a combination of them both was best! Becoming a teenager also meant gaining my own room along with Dad’s now unwanted Heybrook TT2. Dad had discovered CD in the form of a Marantz CD873LE so I quickly jumped at the chance to nick the TT2 away and spent hours getting it ‘just right’.
Dad was shocked to hear the results of my ‘expert’ setting up of the Basik Plus and Linn K9 as Jean Michael Jarre – Rendezvous Houston shook the door on its hinges.
My musical taste was deeply influenced by my Dad (how could it not have been?), with Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits, Fleetwood Mac, Supertramp, Elton John, Judie Tzuke (amongst many others) all making appearances in my listening repertoire…and they still do to this day.
Our family’s combined building skills extended to creating a music room from the large attached garage with its concrete altar for the TT2. Dad took on mobile DJ work for local community, charity fund raising, weddings etc. playing 60s and 70s tunes and I partnered with 80s and 90s using Sony minidiscs, home mixed TDK MA metal tapes and CDs. I recall one New Year’s Eve event for a Farmers Association being totally epic right up until 3am, but then packing up to leave was messy in 12inch of recent snow. Farmers had to resort to tractors clearing a track and pulling us out!
I developed my line-up, the TT2 was fitted with DC motor and modified RB250, and this increased performance massively. This stayed until I discovered the bass, dynamics, pitch and image stability of direct drive. The picture is of my third direct drive, pitch stable Technics and has a RB 301(rewired by Dad) running into a Rega Fono Mk2. At bake-offs that source proved very competitive, but now carries the super Rega Exact (a tricky setup but worth the patience) to great effect.
The internet made a massive impact on me with previously unheard of knowledge waiting to be tapped at the mere click of a mouse button, with people sharing the same interest in music and hifi as Dad and me. Things to buy, things to sell, things to talk about and debate, future friends to meet in real life. I’ve met and made so many good friends via the internet and I owe a great deal of gratitude to a large number of them with their kindness and trust really opening my eyes to the better side of humanity!
As Dad has already mentioned, we have pooled our resources and collected knowledge and taken part in shows for enthusiasts where we play what we feel is a great system to other audiophiles and music lovers. Two highlights from these shows spring from memory, the first being a packed room of full seats, lines of listeners standing and the area in front of speakers squashed with people squatting and kneeling. The music? Dire Straits – Telegraph Road, reproduced on a Heybrook TT2, RB300, Goldring Eroica LOMC, Cambridge Audio 640P and a simple Rotel RA-04 amp into Epos M12i. The second being a crowd spontaneously clapping a vinyl copy of jazz piano; Actually, even we were impressed with the reproduction seriously hot and ‘live’ by early afternoon. On this occasion we’d hidden the speaker brand very carefully…maybe some would not have applauded knowing there were little JBL L1’s powering the room! It was a great shared moment for father and son, our team work had brought this about and we were glowing!
Robs Line Up:
Handmade wooden rack on a solid concrete floor
Modified Technics SL1200mk2 turntable
Rega RB301 with internal one piece rewire
5mm Achromat /original mat
Rega Exact MM cartridge
Supra Lo-Rad mains cabling
Rega Fono Mk2 phono stage
Canare LV 61S low capacitance interconnect
Sony TA-FB940R Mosfet integrated amplifier
Supra Rondo 2 x 2.5T speaker cable
JBL L1 loudspeakers (internally modified with back wave deflector)
Atacama speaker stands filled with cat litter (unused I might add)
As I sit here typing this article I’m listening to Fun Lovin’ Criminals – 100% Columbian, Eric Clapton – Me And Mr. Johnson, Goldfrapp – Supernature and Placebo – Sleeping With Ghosts, all on vinyl and I wonder…. what my eight (nearly nine) year old Son Sam will be listening to when he is 40? Will he listen to what I do? Will he be influenced by my music as I was by my father’s music?
What will your Son or Daughter be listening to and by what media I wonder?
The next generation, vinyl lives on!