Saturday, February 19, 2011

And the iPod connection completes it

An iPhone 3g plugged in to the line-in.
Finally, and for some people this is the most important feature, the iPod connection.   I wanted to preserve the iTunes functionality since it would be nice for guests to be able to come over and plug their own iPod right into the stereo and have it work.   The turntable was already plugged into the sole AV input in the Sonos Bridge, so I had to come up with a way to select between the the turntable and the iPod for the line-in connection.  

This was easily solved with an A/B audio in switch from Radio Shack and Apple’s Composite AV cable which can also re-charge an iPod while its playing.  
Apple Composite AV Cable
RadioShack Audio Video AB Switch

The system was so close to being controlled entirely from my iphone using the Sonos app, the A/B audio switch was really a drag.  Fortunately, my wife gave me the perfect Christmas gift and in the Sonos Wireless Dock, which charges and connects an iPod or an iPhone to the mesh network. 
Sonos Wireless Dock

Networking the thing

NETGEAR XAVB101 Powerline AV Ethernet Adapter Kit

In order to work properly, one of the Sonos in the network needs to be physically connected to a router.  Not only do they get content from the web, but they use the network to create the ‘mesh’ they use to link the zone players.  

This created a problem for me.  The room where I wanted to place this had no phone jack.  This meant I couldn’t put my router in the room without getting a phone line installed.  The router was tucked away behind a couch across the house.   Waiting for the phone company in Chicago is worse than waiting for cable.  We mainly use our mobile phones these days, that wasn’t a big deal until now.   

The fix?  Run the internet through the house’s powerlines.  Now that is pretty cool.   All I had to do was plug these two Netgear boxes in.  One at the router.  One at the stereo. 

I need a phono pre-amp?


Record players produce a relatively low signal compared to other stereo components. I’m sure there’s a good reason for this, but I don’t know it.

What this means is that if I were to plug it directly into the Sonos player, it would be way too quiet. Even with the volume all the way up.

This is fixed by running the signal through a phono pre-amp. After scouring Amazon, I bought this one:

Once it was ready to go, I just plugged the Dual 1229 into the pre-amp and the pre-amp straight into the Sonos line-in. Worked perfectly.

Ampcessories DJ Pre-Amp II: $30.00

Friday, February 18, 2011

Adding the cool factor: Dual 1249 Turntable

Dual 1229
The record player is the second most important component of the whole system.   It’s going to be highly visible and as an ex-indie rocker from the 90s, I had to be sure that it struck the right balance of obscure and quality.  Like a Fender Mustang.  

After an obscene amount of obsessing, I settled on a Dual.  It’s German.  They sound good.  They look good.   At the time they were seen as premium items.  Collectors love them.  And amazingly, it has the exact dimensions of where it needs to fit.  After a couple weeks, a 1249 popped up for cheap one eBay and I pounced.  The seller was a bit obsessive compulsive, his unpacking notes were incredibly detailed:

I have packaged your turntable very carefully and I would recommend that you the follow these steps in opening the package, removing the turntable components from the box and reassembling and setting it up.  You may want to print the following steps when you receive the package so that they will be easier to access.  If you are familiar with the set-up process, please disregard these steps.  I had the turntable completely set up and playing a record prior to packing it up for you. I want you to enjoy the turntable and fully experience its fine performance capability.

·         Open the package on the address side by carefully cutting the sealing tape without penetrating the package.
·         Remove the folded paper material from above the turntable, noting the Dual 1229 manual which I have included which is very similar to your 1249 belt-driven model.
·         Gently lift the wrapped dust cover, removing any packaging which adjacent to the inner cardboard box material.
·         As you carefully un-wrap the bubble pack from around the dustcover, please note the small baggie inside it which contains the counterbalance, turntable spindles and cartridge, each thoroughly wrapped.  Be careful not to drop the baggie or its contents as you un-wrap the dust cover.
·          Next, remove the wrapped turntable platter from above the turntable chassis.  This is a heavy cast-aluminum platter.  I would recommend not un-wrapping it until you are ready to place it on the drive platter on the turntable chassis later in the assembly process.
·         Next, remove the turntable chassis in its wooden base from the package.  It also is wrapped carefully with bubble pack.  Please be careful not to disturb the inner mechanism under the turntable chassis.  The power cord, phono interconnects and ground wire are carefully placed underneath the wood base.  You are now ready for the reassembly process.
·         Carefully un-wrap the wooden turntable base and chassis and place it on a solid surface where you can complete the setup.  Carefully turn the (3) chrome lock-down screws clockwise until the heads are flush with the chassis and the chassis is fully suspended on its springs.  Make sure that the power cord, interconnects and ground wire are outside the turntable base ready to connect to your amplifier or receiver.
·         Carefully un-wrap the cast platter and gently place it on the inner belt driven platter.  (this is one of the most critical parts of the assembly).  It should seat easily when properly centered.  The chassis should now be freely suspended for vibration isolation.
·         Locate the baggie containing the counterbalance, spindles and Grado cartridge.  Remove the twist tie from the tone arm, ensuring that the tone arm remains locked by its retainer clip on its rest holder.
·         It is important not to power up the turntable until full tone arm balancing and set up is complete.  The mechanism will tend to cycle and turn off because of the vibration in transport, and if the arm is not balanced, additional friction can damage the cycling mechanism.
·         Locate the counter balance and the small knurled knob at the rear of the tone arm near the gimbal.  The small numbered ring on the gimbal should be set to zero and the anti-skate control below the tone arm should also be set to zero.  Ensure that the tone arm remains in the locked position.  Un-thread the knurled knob by turning it counter-clockwise until you are able to slide the counter balance into the rear of the tone arm with the guide slot facing downward.  Do not fully tighten the knurled knob until the tone arm is balanced to zero grams following the installation of the Grado phono cartridge in the next step.
·         Locate the cartridge and the tone arm pivoting handle on its right side at the place where the cartridge interfaces to the end of the tone arm.  Pivot the handle 45 degrees with the tone arm.  Inspect the underside of the cartridge head shell mount and the head shell connections themselves to see how they interface together. Ensure that the stylus (needle) guard is still on the cartridge and place the cartridge in the tone arm by carefully placing the rear of the head shell (with 4 pins visible) against the inner circuit board at the end of the tone arm, and then lifting the front of the head shell until it aligns with the tone arm.  Then pivot the head shell handle to a 90 degree angle with the tone arm, locking the head shell in place.   
·         (This next step is one of the most critical).  Again, ensure that the tracking force ring at the rear of the tone arm and the anti-skate controls are both set to zero. With the tone arm locked to its rest and the counterbalance loosely affixed to the rear of the tone arm so that it can be slid backwards and forwards, very carefully remove the stylus guard by sliding it forward off of the cartridge.  The stylus is now exposed and can be easily damaged.
·         Very carefully release the tone arm lock and place the tone arm to a position where it would almost track a record, while holding the tone arm so that the stylus does not touch anything.  Then very carefully, slide the counterbalance forward or backward until the tone arm “floats” at a point with the stylus nearly at record height, not moving down or up.  The counterbalance will almost be as close to the gimbal as possible.  When the tone arm “floats”, you have set the mass to a true zero grams.  Now adjust the stylus mass ring to 1.7 grams (the scale is calibrated to grams) and the anti-skate control on the center (elliptical) scale to 1.7 grams also.  Place the tone arm back to its rest position and lock it again.  You are now ready to interface your new turntable to your amplifier.
·         Before interfacing the turntable to your amplifier, I would recommend first releasing the tone arm lock and plugging the power cord into an outlet.  Place the cueing lever in a position so the handle is towards the rear of the turntable.  When you plug it in, the tone arm will probably cycle (you do not want to do this prior to balancing the tone arm) and return to the rest.  If it attempts to play a record and there is no record on the platter, operate the cue level by pulling it forward, so that the stylus does not touch the rotating platter.  This is very important to prevent stylus damage.  Next, prepare to plug the audio cables into your amplifier.
·         Place the red marked cable into the right channel magnetic phono cartridge input and the opposite color into the left channel phono input.  Be sure to attach the ground wire to the ground terminal of the amplifier.  This will ground motor hum from being heard.
·         You are now ready to listen to your records.  Place a clean record on the platter and lift the cue lever by moving it to the forward position.  This will lift the tone arm.  Gently place the tone arm over the record starting groove, release the cue lever gently to lower the tone arm and HAPPY LISTENING (make sure the volume is turned down on your amplifier prior to this step).  You may also select the “start” function by sliding the lever to the right.  The arm will pick up off the record and return to its rest position at the end of play. 

Dual 1249 Turntable: $225

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A little more background on the original stereo from the VP's

Editor's note:  Ken & Sue VanderPloeg (my in-laws) originally owned the Zenith integrated stereo. What follows is their account. 

We purchased the stereo in 1964 (fall) or early 1965 in Columbus, Ohio.

It was stored in Eva VanderPloeg(Ken's mother)'s house during our army years - October 1966 - October 1968.

We moved it 6 times with us in the next 20 years.  Grand Rapids, MI to Wheeling, IL to Aurora, IL to Downers Grove, IL to Philadelphia, PA, to Woodridge, IL and back to Downers Grove, IL.

View Zenith9000 in a larger map

In 1981 it moved to the basement for storage because we bought a "modern" unit and shelves.

When the basement was finished in 1985 it was put in a prominent spot but not played much because it had to compete with a juke box.  It mostly held seasonal decorations.

In 2000 when we moved from the house in DG to a townhouse in Woodridge there wasn't room for it so it went to our shop for storage - again.  Ken used it as a credenza.  Our friend and tenant, John Brockway wanted it but he died before he could claim it.

In 2006 when we moved into half of the store space there wasn't room for it and Sue wanted to toss it in the dumpster.  It was too heavy for her to lift and Ken wouldn't help.  He wanted it.  So, it was turned on its side and lived under a work table for two years.

After we sold the business in 2007 it moved again to our basement in Woodridge until rescued by Jason in 2008.

What could have been

Peachtree Audio Nova
During my research, I came across the Peachtree Audio Nova.   I immediately began lusting for it.  It looks beautiful – the perfect balance of retro but modern.  I really liked its minimal lines and the tube looked bad ass. 

What really got me was its full integration of the Sonos ZonePlayer 120 – which I had decided to build my system around.   The Sonos player slides into a little bay in the back.

Peachtree Audio Nova with a Sonos ZonePlayer 120

The reviews for it were amazing, it elevates digital music to whole new level – fit for a true audiophile.

Sadly, that's not me.  In the end, I didn’t need it.    I'd make do with the Sonos alone.

Also, it  would only just barely fit in the cabinet, and that would be only after I did some major rearranging of the inner compartment using actual power tools.

No Peachtree Audio Nova for the Zenith9000.

Saved: $1,200