Vintage Receiver Upgrade – Norwegian Wood

It’s an exciting day at Innerspace Labs! Our latest vintage amplifier upgrade provides clean and detailed sound and gorgeously complements our Denon DP-60L turntable as both units feature a rich rosewood finish, further mirrored by the liquid wood ear cups of our AudioQuest Nighthawk closed-back circumaural headphones and our pending order of ORA GrapheneQ wood ear cupped cans presently forecast for delivery later this year from Kickstarter.

Long-time readers may recall that our first receiver upgrade took place in 2009 when our beloved and trusty Yamaha CR-840 (1979-1981) Natural Sound Receiver was replaced with a McIntosh 4280.

Here is the Yamaha –

Yamaha CR-840 and Denon DP-60L Rosewood Turntable 04-09-19.JPG

And the MAC 4280 –

McIntosh MAC 4280 Front lg.jpg

Sadly, the amp had some issues and after 3 years of service attempts at McIntosh Labs headquarters it was declared dead.

In 2012 I was generously gifted a replacement MAC – a MAC C39 pre-amplifier paired with an Integra adm2.1 power amplifier. They made my Focal 814v Chorus series floor speakers sing beautifully.

McIntosh C39 Pre-Amplifier.JPG

Integra ADM2.1 Power Amp.jpg

Focal Chorus 714v b.jpg

Eventually, that MAC was retired as well, and I returned to my beloved Yamaha which, with only a single transistor replacement around 2006 and a Deoxit cleaning in 2019, it has served me faithfully for nearly two decades, and has been kicking since it was built 38 years ago in 1981.

But Sunday evening it occurred to me that I had one more component I’d never tried with my system. This is the Tandberg TR-2060, manufactured in Norway, which debuted in late 1977 and was introduced to US markets until about 1981. It originally retailed for $700 in 1977 ($2,919.85 in today’s dollars.) Though fairly scarce, they are available on the used market at an affordable price and perform impressively well. I found it for a few dollars at a junk sale several years ago.

Tandberg TR 2060 Vintage Receiver 04-07-19 01.JPG

The amp has two sets of speaker outputs with a power output of 60 watts per channel into 8Ω (stereo). The only snag is that the inputs are DIN connectors. Thankfully, I remembered precisely where I’d stored a pair of DIN-to-RCA conversion cables which I’d ordered years back when I originally acquired the receiver.

Tandberg TR 2060 Vintage Receiver 04-07-19 05.JPG

I polished and connected it and was really pleased with its powerful sound. The classic Yamaha Natural Sound receivers of the same vintage are far more neutral, and there is really something to be said for the stunning rosewood cabinet of the Tandberg matching the finish of my Denon. (I am an unabashed fanatic for rosewood.)

Tandberg TR 2060 Vintage Receiver 04-07-19 10.JPG

It’s always a thrill to incorporate new vintage gear into my setup, and I’ll be curious to see what I think of the punchier, bolder sound this amp provides over the more transparent signature of the Yamaha, and to test various favorite recordings with both the speaker and headphone outputs. It will be a fun project for the spring!

The Merits of Nostalgia and a Cozy Placebo Effect

And so it came to pass that my beloved McIntosh C39 pre-amp was not made happy by replacing the volume pot.  I’d decided in advance that if that didn’t fix it, I would cut my losses and consider, for the first time in my 30+ years, to explore the possibility of a brand new pre-amp/power amp combo.

My first McIntosh - a MAC 4280.  RIP 2013.

My first McIntosh – a MAC 4280.

I am fully aware of the tried-and-true code of the audiophile – quality vintage gear will generally out-perform and out-last newer contemporaries dollar-for-dollar.  But after repeatedly battling oxidation, bad resistors, and a few bad volume pots for the better part of three decades, I was ready to consider something new.

The Next Generation: My McIntosh C39 Pre-Amp (RIP 2014)

The Next Generation: My McIntosh C39

My life-long trusted audio adviser and best-friend tossed a few suggestions my way, namely the emotiva xsp-1, some newer Rotel models, and the most alluring of his suggestions – the Parasound Halo p3.  But for the interim, I had a local hi-fi shop tune up my Yamaha CR-840 – the first real amp I ever had.  Years ago channel A stopped working, and oxidation built up rending the amp nearly-unusable, but I’d never given it up, as it was a very special gift.  Thankfully the shop returned it to me the next day in PERFECT working condition!

I’d forgotten how great it sounded.  Please understand – I know it’s not remotely in the same class as some of the finer amps I’ve used, but the warm and familiar tone of this amp transports me back to college and all the memories attached to those years.  I completely acknowledge that this nostalgia trip is in no way a measure of the amp’s technical performance.  It is of no quantifiable measure an amp comparable to my MACs or, likely, to the Parasound amp.  But I will fully-embrace the head-trip it brings and am more than satisfied to use it until the right upgrade comes along.

Next up? Parasound Halo P3

Next up – Perhaps the Parasound Halo P3

To make the amp-swap official, I chucked the eyesore of a component rack that I’d picked up from a thrift shop.  30-seconds of Craigslist searching produced a nifty 60s record shelf for only a few bucks to serve as both a surface for the amp and as additional record storage.  Better still – the funky elderly couple selling it were ridiculously adorable and had mirrored-and-velvet-patterned wallpaper with matching decor all about their home.

Not kidding.  This... with mirrored panels.

Not kidding. This… with mirrored panels.

The shelf has a very “college” feel to accompany the amp, and the space was PERFECT to relocate all my LPs pressed between 1995 and the present.  All my favorites are in here – DJ Food, Boards of Canada, Lemon Jelly, DJ Shadow, The Orb, Underworld, Stereolab, Spiritualized, The KLF, St Germain, Bonobo, Aphex Twin, Cinematic Orchestra, Sigur Ros, Pantha Du Prince, Low, Beck, The FLips, with just enough room to sneak in nearly all of Brian Eno and Tom Waits’ albums.

The Nostalgia Corner

The Nostalgia Corner

This is as good a time as any to resolve to listen to more of my records in 2015 – to enjoy what I have instead of always searching for the next grail.

And there you have it – an objective and meticulous audiophile reduced to a nostalgic dolt by his trust old amp.  Think what you will, but I’ll be happy here, spinning some great tunes.

Eno & Hyde Postcards from their first two LPs

Eno & Hyde Postcards from their first two LPs

An Audiophile Christmas Story

I’ve spent the last few years tracking down my most favorite LPs but have kept them all sealed waiting for a system that would truly do them justice.

A few years ago, a WONDERFUL friend gifted me a McIntosh 4280 amplifier, a DAC, and Focal speakers for being the Best Man at his wedding.  Sadly the MAC was faulty and after 3 years of servicing it at McIntosh headquarters, it was declared dead.

The beautiful McIntosh MAC 4280... now retired.

But on December 23rd, 2012 he drove 9 hours across the USA and delivered me a replacement MAC and new cables to go with it!

I had also recently upgraded my linear turntable to a glorious Denon and picked out the best cartridge I could afford.

FINALLY after 5 years I’m removing the shrink and spinning my favorite LPs!

The new setup includes:

Denon DP-60L Rosewood Turntable w Ortofon 2M Red cartridge
and my trusty Yamaha CR-840 integrated tuner/amplifier
(The Yamaha was my first so I keep it around but powered off)

Denon DP-60L Rosewood Turntable and my Yamaha CR-840 integrated tuner/amplifier

Cambridge Audio DACMagic for my Music Workstation

Cambridge Audio DACMagic Digital to Analog Converter
McIntosh C39 pre amplifier w remote and manual

McIntosh C39 Pre Amplifier
Integra adm2.1 power amp

Integra adm2.1 Power Amp
Harman Kardon Solo
(repair in progress)

Harman Kardon Solo
Sonance Sonamp 260
(repair in progress)

Sonance Sonamp 260
Focal 814v floor speakers

Focal 814V floor speakers
Sennheiser HD 380Pro studio monitors
(I LOVE these headphones!)

Sennheiser HD380Pro studio monitors
Pair of XLO Ultra 10′ speaker cable

XLO Ultra 10' cable
AudioQuest Python interconnects


AudioQuest Python interconnects
and Tributaries Silver Series RCAs

(from the early 2000s before Trib became stupid)
NOTE: Sample image not an exact match – mine have silver caps on the connectors

Tributaries Silver RCA
Next I plan to order a VTI 304 cherry audio rack, one of the few units which can accommodate the mammoth size of these vintage components.

VTI 304 Cherry audio rack
THANK YOU, dear friend.  You made my Christmas one to remember!

Experimental Music Haul 2.0

I’ve started volunteering at the Bop Shop and they let me browse the special collections section (items for sale on the website) and I’ve found some remarkable LPs.

The first item I picked up was Morton Subotnick’s The Wild Bull.  I asked, “so is it true that I can pick up just about any release on the Nonesuch label and know that it will be fantastic?”

Moments later, I had my answer.  I found a double LP boxed set titled, The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music by Beaver and Krauss.  It was composed on one of the first Moog synthesizers built by Bob Moog and includes a syllabus to guide the listener through a collection of sound concepts and the language of electronic music which was altogether new to the world when the record was released.

One of the 20th century music experts working in the shop smiled and told me that the Guide was an essential starting point for my early electronic library and that had the album been produced in a more limited run, it would be considered a holy grail.

Click on the back cover shot for a high-resolution photo and check out the track listing for a better idea of what this collection offers.

Next I asked if by chance the store had a copy of George Harrison’s noise record, Electronic Sound.

Sure enough, in the special collections area there were not one but three copies!  The first was $25 but had needle wear and audible surface noise.  The $40 copy was a Japanese import in NM condition and it played magnificently.  I opted for the second disc and after researching the recording I learned that Krauss actually composed and performed an entire side of the album but was never credited on the release.

The final treasure came when I inquired about a collection of experimental releases from the French label, Prospective 21e Siècle from the 60s and 70s.  I was surprised to hear that the owner of the shop recalled the label and remembered seeing a few discs come into the store at one time or another.  We searched through the “to-be-filed” shelves and to my absolute surprise found FOUR of the label’s releases tucked away on the top shelf!  Most were $50 apiece and in excellent condition.  After quickly sampling these discs I picked out three and added them to my pile.

I plan to rip these rare albums to FLAC just as soon as the McIntosh pre-amp and power amp arrive.

Prospective 21e Siècle – Boucourechliuv

Prospective 21e Siècle – Clavencin 2.0

Prospective 21e Siècle – Ohana

I made two additional discoveries this week as well.  The Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble has released two albums, each in the area of New Music.

The first was a performance of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians.  It was an excellent performance of the classic piece, but the second release is what really grabbed me.

In C Remixed is a 21st century re-imagining of Terry Riley’s groundbreaking minimalist composition.

Below is a sample – Jad Abumrad’s mix

And the other discovery was the work of Pauline Oliveros.  I began exploring her tape music from the 50s and 60s but was most impressed with her work with The Deep Listening Band during the 1990s.  The album, Ready Made Boomerang was recorded in a two million gallon cistern which has a reverberation time of 45 seconds!

I’m hoping for a vinyl re-issue of this release.

I’ll be heading back to the Bop Shop this Saturday so stay tuned for more!

A Birthday Like No Other!

I’ve been saving up for this mega-post of audiophilic treasures.  I’m back from a week’s vacation to my old home town where I spent my birthday visiting friends, family and my life-long favorite record shop.

Entering the shop I walked past a NM Beatles butcher cover, straight to the back where 3,000 LPs had just been traded in. Tom, the owner told me it was the best collection he’d ever seen (other than his own.)

All of the discs were alphabetical by artist, and all dead mint. Tom said, “I could easily shrink wrap the whole lot and sell ’em in Japan if I wanted to. The owner played these discs once to rip them and then filed them away.”

I passed up 20 mint Miles Davis LPs knowing I couldn’t afford to bring them all home, but my eyes went wide when I reached the Tom Waits collection. I pulled every disc I didn’t already own and walked up to the counter.

I said to Tom, “hold these – I’m going to pace around for 3 minutes… and then I’m going to come back and buy them.”

I had already ordered two other Waits’ LPs for my birthday – Bone Machine and Bad As Me.  They’re in the mail now.

But getting so many Waits LPs all at once in unplayed condition and not spending a cent on shipping… totally made my birthday!


Next during a routine visit to my local antique mall I found a copy of the Rutles’ self-titled 12″ promo on yellow vinyl with the hilarious banana label from 1978.


(To anyone who isn’t familiar with the Beatles parody band – please go to Youtube and watch their uproariously funny mockumentary, All You Need Is Cash.  It stars Eric Idle, George Harrison Mick Jagger, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and many others!)

Hold My Hand

Let’s Be Natural

Another birthday order arrived by mail this week – the limited edition Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots pressed on red vinyl.  This is a perfect compliment to my other limited edition Lips’ disc – their award winning masterpiece, The Soft Bulletin + bonus CD.


On the grounds outside the antique mall I found three more Sesame Street records which I didn’t already have in my collection, along with four Muppet and four Sesame Pez dispensers.


The vendor also had the 1984 Sesame Street Fisher Price playhouse (without the figures) and a rare 1978 9-disc box set titled “My First Sesame Street Record Collection,” the later of which I could not pass up taking home.

The set is complete with original box, printed bag, nine 45 RPM singles and their respective colorful cardboard sleeves.  Little is known about these sets and various versions were sold in the late 70s.  Only two photos are posted in the Muppet Wiki and my copy is far more complete than those pictured!

That weekend I went garage saling and found two more Jim Henson treasures – a Red Fraggle plush at the Super Flea and a 1986 30th Birthday poster of the Muppets and Henson, himself!  The poster turned up at a garage sale for $1.  Not bad.

Two more Parliament Funkadelic LPs also came by mail.  Unfortunately the “original pressing” Maggot Brain I ordered turned out to be a cheap repress from the 90s so I sold it and cut my losses.  The other disc was good – a sealed original copy of Funkadelic’s debut self-titled LP.  (It’s breaking my heart trying to decide whether or not to open it!)

I came real close to ordering the new limited edition green vinyl re-release of White Zombie’s Astro-Creep 2000, but after contacting the label I learned that the glorious lyric art that came with the CD is not included with the vinyl, so I passed.

…which brings me to what was going to be my most celebrated find of the year.

I thought myself incredibly fortunate to finally have my dream turntable AND a new pre-amp to drastically upgrade my set up.

I was using a linear direct drive Optimus LAB-2250 turntable, a $20 economy phono stage and NAD L40 integrated amp.  Sure, the NAD is nothing to turn your nose up at, but the table and cheap phono stage crippled what little quality I had.

Close friends may recall that I had a gorgeous vintage 70s McIntosh receiver, but that it had intermittent crackling which the folks at MAC headquarters could not eliminate after 2 years of servicing the unit.

Well the replacement is in transit now, but the same sadly cannot be said about the turntable.

This is the Denon DP-60L.  It is what many call the finest machine ever manufactured by Denon.  It has a no-contact end sensor auto-lift mechanism, back-lit controls and a rosewood plinth.   As an added bonus, this specific table was fitted with a Signet cartridge which you often see paired with turntables double the value of the 60L.  I thought I had finally found my dream table – until it arrived at my doorstep… broken and non-functional.  It was apparently destroyed in the mail, but despite my paying for insurance on the $600 purchase, the post office chose not to accept responsibility and denied my claim.  I turned to Paypal hoping they would protect my funds, but the terms of my purchase fell though a fine-print loophole and the funds were denied.

Two months later, I am appealing the USPS’s denial.  WISH ME ALL THE LUCK IN THE WORLD.  This was the biggest equipment purchase of my life.

On the positive side there is still the McIntosh amp waiting for me, thanks to the immeasurable generosity of a dear friend.

The new MAC eliminates the problem of the cheap phono stage.  This beast (with a shipping weight of 69 pounds!) was manufactured in the early 90s.  It’s the McIntosh C39 pre-amplifier.  I’m working on picking up a power amp to pair it with.

The heartbreaking thing about the Denon is that I had a conversation with Tom (the record store owner mentioned at the beginning of this post) and it turns out that he’s using the exact same model at home!

This is a man with 30,000 LPs in his personal collection.  If it’s good enough for him, then it’s most certainly good enough for me!  One day, it will be mine.

Wish me luck with the claim.  Still, it was one hell of a birthday.