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Sound Practices Magazine Online!
Sound Practices Magazine Online!

Forgetabout Amps!
Article By Vincent Gallo
From Sound Practices Issue 3, Early 1993

  I just finished reading a copy of the famous new magazine Sound Practices Number 2. I got my copy yesterday, the same day my agent informed me that I brown nosed myself another job acting in a Hollywood movie. She told me I was cast along with Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep, Glen Close, and Wynona Rider — so I figured I deserved MILLIONS. I had to spend the whole day on the phone with my agent and their lawyer. I told them The Gallo doesn't work for less than a million a film. They offered 10,000. I took 15 K-that's $2,985,000 less than each of the other actors was getting. With all this Hollywood-style schmoozing to do, I couldn't just relax and sit around reading my new SP #2.

The thing is that as soon as I got the job I started to worry. I've worked as an actor for 12 years but I still get it in my mind that I don't know what the hell I'm doing, and I probably don't. I always imagine all the other actors are going to think that I stink and that they will hate me. So I begin hating myself, a little more than usual. I start to feel like I deserved the ten thousand beatings I got from my father and that my mother was right when she said that I wasn't at all handsome enough to be an actor and that I should learn a trade instead, maybe plumbing.

I looked into the mirror. Ohmyg-d, she was right. I hate my greasy guinea skin, I hate my hair, my big ugly nose. I started feeling like the talentless greasy, slimy little piece of shit that I am. However, in the past I worked with some big stars like Faye Dunaway, Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Johnny Depp and other jerks like that. None of them were intimidating to work with and usually within minutes of starting a new film, I can slip back into my judgmental arrogant cocky self. THANK G-D!

Unfortunately, shooting wouldn't begin for 28 days so I had 28 days of rampant self disgust and giant fears ahead of me. Audio was the last thing on my mind. Sad because my usual neurotic obsession with Hi-Fi helps me kill some of my spare time. Maybe I should get a friend? Anyway, why wasn't I out with some chick celebrating? Why can't I enjoy the whole thing instead of worrying over and over about how much Meryl Streep will hate me?

Anyway, that night I couldn't close my eyes. I flipped on the light and began reading Number 2 to take my mind off Meryl Streep. Suddenly, a miracle! I fell into a deep, deep sleep — deeper than I have ever known. You see, Sound Practices #2 was so boring and dull that it put me out like a light. Thank G-d for Number 2 and thanks to all you unemployed clowns for those rehashed schematics. Otherwise, I wouldn't have slept for 28 days without the help of a cheap hooker or some big pills.

Yeah, Number 2 was a real snoozer. Number 1 with MY classic article on Mono was much better. Could you believe that Joe Roberts wrote an article on that $60,000 Ongaku amp? For all of you who don't know this, Joe Roberts is the cheapest, penny pinchin', food stampin', pricetag switchin', welfare check cashin', pull out your teeth and nickel and dime you to death Hi-Fi nut in America. If Joe can't trade even for something he found in a dumpster, or buy it outright for a penny, then it just don't go home with Joe. I mean the guy is too cheap to do a glossy cover for the magazine, but he will use up column space to write about a $60,000 amp he never listened to.

Joe, you bottom trawler, you cheap Bacalao, you cheap chiseler, how dare you alienate the working man!!! You have one claim to fame-you are the king of great Hi-Fi sound for under a buck. If you're too cheap to buy it, Joe, don't write about it. Leave the Ongaku column for The Absolute Sound so all those jerks can go trade in their Cello and Krell junk for it.

Joyce is my favorite writer so I read the magazine starting from the back, Japanese style. Herb Reichert's article was next and not bad either. Herb is sentimental with techno wiz thrown in. His article shed some new light on my childhood memory of the first time I hooked up my Marantz Model 2s in triode. Yes, yes, they did sound a little better — but not by that much. The second I tasted one sip of real triodes (WE 43 with 211 tubes) I shipped those beautiful brown Model 2s off to some brownholed neurotic Marantz collector who had me on the phone for hours discussing the condition of the power cord. I had to guesstimate the number of times it was plugged in and pulled out. The Bastard.

I had to deal with him though because the Japanese would only buy the big overpriced shitty sounding Model 9s. So much for the Japanese paying the most for the best sound. I can still hear echoes of Japanese accents asking for Model 9s. Model 9s stink, period.

Anyway, by the time I read through to the thorazine laced column "Art at the Edge of Science," I was sick of amps and amp talk. It's the same old Audiophile bull crapola-amps, amps, amps, this amp design, that amp, design, bigger, fatter, more this, more that, and more and more expensive. Too much amp talk. You're giving me adjida. What about horns, drivers, crossovers, preamps, phono sections, cartridges, records, speaker box design? How about classic turntables and arms, huh? How about some tape machine talk? Listen, you brown stained techno macho audio drag queen fairies, enough is enough!!! Ya hear me?

Amps are not that interesting to talk about; they don't make or break your system by themselves, and choosing an amp is a relatively easy thing to do. So stop aggravating yourself 'cause I'm gonna make the choice simple for you, but I'm gonna tell you just one time, and after this I don't want to hear the word "amp" again, Capisci?

PENTODE - Thank G-d for pentode amps otherwise you big cornholes wouldn't have all that big POWER pentodes were designed to give you, so all you retards could drive your inefficient speakers. Now, I have actually liked a few inefficient speakers in my life. I said liked not loved-DQ-10s weren't bad. My classic AR-1 with Janszen tweeter setup was good for a few records, but they are all very forgettable. All the GREAT speakers I've heard we're ultra efficient so to compromise amp sound quality for high power design fundamentally makes no sense.

However, if you must have or are stuck with inefficient speakers (or speaker if you’re hip enough to be in mono), there art a few good ones to choose from. If you like brown (and I do love brown), the Marantz Model 2 is neat. The Western Electric 142A is good. But the best pentode amp I’ve heard is the WE 124C — the early silver ones (not the gray) with the engraved (not ink stamped) number 171 C transformers. They are pretty good and I really loved mine but I yelled out "YES” in two seconds when my idol Walt Bender asked to buy them from me. I think he still uses them. He has some of the best ears on the planet (and his checks always clear). So the silver 124s can't be all that bad.

OTL - I listened to every Futterman piece, the Atmospheres, a home brew 6336 amp and an 80s German thing called a Diffenbacher. They all give me an image of what it would be like to drive a car with a 64 cylinder engine. Most are below average. The best OTLs are not bad but they are usually expensive and need frequent adjustment. And for what? You only get “not bad.’ Big deal, I say OTL, schmo-TL.

SOLID STATE - I don’t want to be heavy handed and declare that all solid state amps suck. But I have no choice because they do all suck. They are over priced over designed, unreliable, hard to fix, age horribly, and never not in a billion trillion years will they sound as good as the best tube stuff Although if you’re into the whole grunge look 70’s thing I get yourself a polyester shirt and go out and hunt down a big bad SAE, or Son of Ampzilla, or a really not too bad Bedini 10/10.

HYBRID - Ha, HA, HA 1/2 tube, 1/2 solid state. This here nor there sensibility doesn’t appeal to me. Its mediocre thinking. Its a half-assed compromise. Just say NO!

TRIODES - Ahhh, Triodes. Che bella triodes. Wonderful wonderful triodes. Beautiful triodes. Okay you get the point they’re simple and they sound great. Choosing a triode amp will let you forget about the amp part of your system. All you basically need to know is that the tube type and the output transformer are mostly responsible for the sound. But here are some tips anyway since I know you all really need to obsess on amps.

First, you have to choose between push pull and single ended. Both types can sound great. Suite the SE types only use one tube they are simpler but usually air very low output. They only work well with real efficient speakers — 100dB/W/m and up. They absolutely GLOW when hooked up to horns. It’s shocking how good they can sound.

My absolute favorite factory builts are the WE 91As (see SP #1). They are super good looking but they usually need some work to get set up and running quietly. All I can say technically is that I had better luck using single ended types without feedback. I took the feedback out of my 91s. Unfortunately 91s are expensive, hard to find, and hard to match up. So maybe this is the “mono mo-ment”...

Push pull triode amps sound great too. They will give you a little more power without sacrificing sound like the pentode. This extra crumb of power can broaden your speaker choices. I love my WE 86C amps. To my ears, these amps make more speakers sound good than any other amp. They can bring an average speaker to life.

Another way to go is to buy a pair of Magnequest transformers and build a pair of amps or get someone to do it for you. I’ve heard Mike’s latest transformers and they are untouchable. Maybe as good as the WE 171A from the 91. Can’t believe you did it, Mike. Good work. Anyway, here’s a chance for good sound a heck of a lot cheaper than the 91s. If you really want to save money use 6A3 tubes. In my 91s they sound as good as 300Bs. So all you cut throat, price bumping scumbags trying to hawk me your trashpicked 300Bs for top dollar, think again. Even in Japan, you can buy late 300Bs for $275. Actually, WE tubes don’t necessarily sound better than other companies’ versions of the same tube type, especially the rectifiers. They are only cool to have if you own the original WE amps and you are anal about things — like me and the Japanese. The tubes used in the popular WE amps go for big bucks. Don’t build around them. If you’re really into Western tubes, try the odd numbers like the 275. Use whatever is cheap and available. By the way, the Chinese 300B copies are not bad at all.

So the word from the Cafe is just get a triode amp, any triode amp. Shoot for WE 91s or 86s if you’re into classics, Or buy some transformers and get some amps built. Or talk to Don Garber or JC Morrison at Fi in NYC. They understand. There are a million tubes to try like 10s, 50s, and all the 2A3 family. Just do it and forget about it. Worry about the rest of the system. Move on to the fun stuff.

Alright, to get a discussion on speakers underway, I figured I’d throw you cheap lazy Hi-Fi nuts a home. I, Vinny GaIlo, that’s right, The Gallo. Me — Vinny C, Vincent Gallo spent $96,329 dollars, drove over 16,238 miles and yapped on the phone for hours to chisel away gear from some of the biggest bunch of money grubbing, Hi-Fi pimpin’, mis-representing, slick conniving, back stabbing, solid state listening Hi-Fi dealing jerks in the USA just so I could generate some interest and discussion on ANYTHING BUT AMPS.

I managed to collect Western Electric 12A, 13A, 15A, 16A, 22A/B, 24A/B, 25A/B, and 26 horns. I’ll be listening to these with 555, 555W, 594, and 713C drivers and 596 and 597 tweeters. Plan to set these up in a huge loft in Soho, NYC. Me and my super pal Mark Lyons will sit there like two big assholes for hours listening and A/B'ing while all you Hi-Fi pimps are sitting around watching prime-time TV and rating chips while waiting for the phone to ring so you could make another quick buck selling off some antique gear you finagled off some blind widows. That’s right Rick, Larry, Vernon, Scott, Sumner, Hitochi and Joel. Stay tuned For #4.

Chew the fat shoot the breeze mull it over, think about it, and please, please forgetahout amps. Love, Vincent.

 

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