My Stereos - My Admiration of Beautiful Sound

Because I was born with 29% of the eyesight of the norm, I was more audibly oriented than I was visually oriented. I noticed sounds that most people either didn’t hear or ignored. For example, I could hear when a CRT television was on in another room by the 15,000 Hz sound the video power fly-back transformer emitted. In various school buildings, they had fire detectors which screamed out an ultrasonic whistle that would give me headaches.

As for sound from electronic audio devices, it sounded like noise to me. In the 1950s, most prerecorded or broadcast sound came from pre-war radios and phonographs. The first TV we got was in 1963. It had a front mounted 4 inch speaker.

When I was 11, I had no idea what stereo was all about. My uncle Charles brought over his Voice of Music 720 hybrid stereo tape recorder and one other tape recorder to serve as a second channel speaker. He set it all up for my dad to listen to a Mercury Living Presence stereo demonstration tape. My dad then said, “Son, its stereo!” I kept going from one speaker to the other trying to hear the difference.

It was some time later while I was at a neighbor’s house playing when I discovered this beat up portable stereo record player – the kind where the turntable folds down from between the speakers. Its stylus was so bad that the music sounded scratchy and garbled. I started playing different 45 rpm records. I then played one that happened to be recorded in stereo. That’s when I discovered what stereo was all about. Even though the record player was tortured by the kids, it still played good enough such that I could hear different sounds coming through each speaker. That’s when I said, I gotta have stereo.

Today this must sound stupid. But one has to remember, what we have today most of us in the early 60s didn’t have. HDTV, hundreds of cable channels, touch tone phones, microwaves, computers, the internet, mobile devices… Our zinc-plated vacuum-tube germanium-transistor culture was pretty primitive then.

Anyway, with all that in mind...

Concord F-600 – Portable AC only AM FM Stereo Cassette Recorder with Detachable Speakers

You-know, it was 1969, I was 19 and wasn't all that rich.  In fact, as a college guy, I often barely had $20.00 to my name.  So, my first stereo was in 1970 and it was a Concord F-600 which didn't cost me all that much.

Lafayette 19-0915 20-watt amplifier

It was a year after I got the F-600 when I purchased a raw 20-watt amplifier board from Lafayette Electronics. I then took the F-600 and ripped out the cassette recorder as well as the preamp and amplifier sections, but kept the tuner section.

I then installed the 19-0915 amplifier board into the F-600, unsoldering the 4 potentiometers from the amplifier board and replacing the four F-600’s with these potentiometers. One of the two volume controls became the balance control along with one of the tome controls becoming the bass. After a bunch of hacking and repurposing, the thing sounded rather good. I did some other things such as increase the low end frequency response and reduce harmonic distortion by replacing the electrolytic coupling caps with physically huge non-polarized metal film crossover caps.

I use an early set of Realistic Solo-103 speakers instead of the Concord speakers that came with the F-600. I also removed the handle and the latching and hinge hardware from the case. 

Note. The Concord F-600 - I think I either gave away, traded it, or sold it in the late 1970s

 I did graduate and go on to a career as a computer programmer.  In summer of 1973 while in college I work one summer to earn extra money so I could buy a real stereo system.

1973 Radio Shack Realistic STA-120B

In the fall of 1973, I returned to college with a Radio Shack Realistic STA-120B which became my daily driver until it was stolen in 1983. I got it at an employee discount via a – well this really good looking girl named Maggie who worked at Radio Shack. I was way too shy (stupid) to ask her out. Sometime later towards the beginning of fall quarter, she got really upset when I told everyone in the store I was returning to college that fall.

Kenwood KR-9400

It would be in 1984 when I was given a Kenwood KR-9400 – a big ole moose of a receiver which then became my main system until 2004 when I completed assembling 2 Velleman K4030 mosfet amplifier kits I built into two active speakers.  See: The SE-10842 Loud Speakers

Velleman K4030 600 Watt Mosfet Stereo Power Amplifier Kit

I got the 2 $400 K4030 kits in 1993 in a trade for a pair of slightly rusty 1955 Bud-Box McIntosh 30 watt tube amps. Yes, I know, today’s esoteric hi-fi nuts would most likely have paid well over $1000 for each of these vintage amps – especially being a matched set. But that was 1993.

McIntosh A-116 aka the Bud-Box mono-block power Amp w/6BG6 finals


The speakers I had at various times were mostly homebrew, culminating in me building in 2005 an exotic ultra-high-fidelity set. This is where I integrated a 2-channel Velleman K4030 amp into each speaker cabinet. These amps lent themselves very well for servo controlling the mid-base and sub-base speakers. The 4” mid ranges and 1” tweeters are both titanium speakers. The mid-base speakers are 8” Vifas – which were used in the $1,600 Mackie HR-824 servo controlled studio monitors. The sub-woofers are the Dayton Audio 295-165 Thruster Woofers which have a light weight moving mass of 66 grams along with 200 watts RMS power handling. With a servo system, it’s not about ass-kicking bass, rather about the accuracy and clarity of sound.


S March, 2019