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!