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Monday, February 1, 2016

Part II: a/d/s/ R1 receiver and L470 speakers - The NY Times Approves of Braun Innovation

Well, back at it.  There is not as much information on a/d/s/ gear to be found, so I am trying to pull a bunch of it together in one place.  I currently own an a/d/s/ R1 stereo receiver in pretty decent shape, and a pair of L470 series 1 speakers that are excellent.  I also have the opportunity to listen to a pair of L1590s from time to time (driven by Emotiva now), and suffice to say I am a very big fan.  In our last entry, I included information from the 1986 Stereo Review equipment guide, and went on a little bit about the R4, which is the R1s superior successor.  If I come across a mint R4 I will probably take the plunge, but for now, let's focus on what we have in house, shall we?  I found a few valuable links to info about the R1, starting with an article in the New York Times (!) written by Hans Fantel in April of 1983.  The entire article is here: 


I do not currently read the Times, as I find the Arts section generally to be fit only for the cage linings of non-discerning parakeets.  I do not believe that the Times in its current iteration provides any news content.  That being said, there was a time when it was not so, and this article is from that era and well worth looking at.  Deiter Ram is mentioned, and Fantel confirms that the "Linear" button disengages loudness compensation when depressed and attributes the feature to the needs of those who listen at low or moderate volumes.  Such is not the way of this humble blog author, so I will typically press the "Linear" button.  I also found this site:


which is maintained by Richard So, who joined a/d/s/ (A/D/S/ on his site, so I may have some corrections to make) in 1987 and provides speaker repair services.  Other than that I know very little about the site, so I hope to change that.  I will reach out to Mr. So to make sure that the link is valid and the services are still available.  If so, that is very good news.  More to come on that.  Next, I discovered this: 


Which is a very neat site with a cool review of the R1 along with the L400 loudspeaker.  The site is run by a gentleman named Ken Rockwell and frankly, I think his review of the NAD 7100 is absolutely killer.  Definitely check it out!

You can also find info regarding the R1 at The Vintage Knob.  If you haven't visited TVK by now, you are wasting your time here.  It is the Mecca of sites for vintage gear, especially 1980s Japanese stuff.  I love it.

What better way to test the R1 than with a set of a/d/s/ speakers?  A while ago I picked up a pair of L470 2 ways on EBay that were in excellent condition.  They were entry level in the non "miniature" line (L400 etc), and the info I have (again from the Stereo Review 1986 equipment guide) is:

2-way acoustic-suspension speaker with self-resetting solid state tweeter protectors.  Features 7" stifflite woofer and 1" soft-dome tweeter.  Walnut vinyl or black finish.  FR 50-20,000 Hz +/- 3dB; crossover at 2kHz; sens 88dB SPL/W/m; nominal impedance 8 ohms; 16" H x 10" W x 9" D.  $320.00 a pair (that would be about $692.00 in today's dollars.  The R1 would go for approximately $1,079).

I am not a huge fan of the vinyl finish, but I love the classic a/d/s/ black metal perforated grill.  This set has no dents and no scuffs. 

So, in the short hour or so I had the things hooked up, what happened?  First off, I had to break out a set of pin connectors from Monoprice (need connectors?  Do yourself a favor: http://www.monoprice.com/)  because the R1 and the L470s only accept those or bare wire.

I dug up a pair of old IXOS cable I got from Accesories 4 Less (Have an urge to buy an inexepensive Onkyo something or other?  Go here:  http://www.accessories4less.com/  I see they have the Yamaha A-S3000 Integrated for a mere $3,999.  I shall order one now) and clamped on the pin connectors and promptly only got one channel worth of sound.  It would have helped had I read the diagram on the back of the R1 that showed that the speaker inputs are stacked (see yesterday's post for diagram).  A few minutes of swearing later, we were off and running.  Seriously, I thought at first that the spring clips in the connectors had worn out or could not handle the weight of the pin connectors, as they are quite heavy duty.  But it was just the glitch of hooking up Left A and Left B.  Corrected that, and all was well.  

The only disc player I had that wasn't already on duty elsewhere (no, really) was a Rotel RDV-1040 DVD player that I bought at a thrift a few summers ago for I think seven dollars or so.  That was a winner.  It is not the most solidly built machine, but it sounds all of seven dollars great and then some.  Plays both PAL and NTSC so it has that going for it too.  

A big down side is that as you can see, the L470s are pretty big for bookshelves.  They dwarf  the Dynaudio Excite 14s, for example, so I have no appropriate stands for them.  I have seen some proprietary stands that seem quite low, 12 to 16 inches I would guess, and I will need something like that.  I refuse to buy the crap stands that are floating around out there, and the good ones are eye-wateringly expensive, so I will be making my own at some point. This summer, I think, if I can figure out what I want them made out of.

As a result, my brief listen was done with speakers on the floor, me reclining on a couch pillow roughly midway and equidistant from the speakers.  Very old-school college bohemian style, I guess.  I put on some Joe Jackson, Christopher Cross, some Bowie and some Tears for Fears, nothing critical, just Sunday night casual.  Darned if they didn't image very well on the floor even- vocals were nicely separated and the sound stage was easily wider than the two speakers.  The bass suffered with the floor placement.  There is a crawlspace below the listening room and the reinforcement made the lows too powerful and out of sync with everything else, which is not the fault of the speakers.  The R1 is not remote controlled, so I had to play with the tone controls and volume the old-fashioned way.  Ultimately I left everything flat and the volume somewhere near the ten o' clock position which was fine for the fairly mellow tunes I was playing.  Overall, I was very, very pleased.  The sound definitely reflected the age of the speakers.  They were clean but not analytical, they were accurate but not "smooth" in a phony way.  They probably do Blue Oyster Cult well, and I am sure they would do Gustav Holst justice.  I will also bet that things will improve astronomically with the right stands.  I see a shoot out with the B&W DM60i in the future.

In my opinion, a/d/s/ made some of the very best stuff around in their day, and their speakers are still my second favorite.  They established a design and sound standard that is hard to find in stereo now, at least for gear that is under high four and five figures.  When they were new I certainly could not afford them, but now it is well worth hunting for examples in good condition.  You will note that I did not mention that I cleaned the R1 after getting it.  That is because I did not.  It just worked.  That is not to say that I will not open it up and give it a good going through, I will.  Thirty years on though, it's a testament to initial quality that it still works so well.  If you can find one, give it a shot as it will likely be different from what you have experienced.  And a/d/s/ speakers are a no-brainer.  it is hard to find a pair without the soft domes damaged however, so I will look into the repair site mentioned above.  And if I come across that mint condition R4 . . .           


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