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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 3
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(Introducing Mike Peshkin, previously of Listener magazine)

I was born a poor child…
by Mike Peshkin

 

No, that wasn’t me, I was born a middle class Jewish child in New York. At the age of 5, I had caused so much mayhem and destruction of private property, my parents, to keep me from being assassinated, moved to Pittsburgh, where I spent the next 12 years—growing and growing and growing. There were few really big people back in the dark ages, I was the tallest kid in junior high, and then I went to high school where I promptly bounced my head off a kid’s stomach—the U.S Air Force Academy changed its rules to get him into their basketball program! I had asked someone where a particular room was and when I turned to leave, there was his thorax—at eye-level, man! It was awe-inspiring! I stopped growing by 11th grade, so I had no one asking me to join their basketball program. I couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time, so it wasn’t a problem.

I spent a year in hell—I mean Ohio—where I went to Kent State University. I left before I could get my rear-end blown off by a National Guardsman. My family moved to Los Angeles where I found out about hot cars and fast women, or vice versa. I belonged to a group called the Street Racers, we had "colors" and everything! I also got introduced to judo while attending Santa Monica City College, the 2nd of 9 colleges (kinda like Star Trek, Voyager, eh?). I got pretty good at judo, but got my body destroyed in competition. What the hey, I had already blown my knee to shreds and fractured my back playing basketball on the street.

My folks had always loved music, but didn’t play much of anything around the house except show-tunes. That may be because they were great dancers. They were seen at a club in New York and were asked to dance as extras for a new show—"Guys and Dolls." I bought my first record when I was about 15 (other than Yertle the Turtle, which I had played so much the vinyl had turned from green to gray); it WAS NOT show tunes.

My folks would drop my sister and I off at the Carnegie library on Saturday mornings on their way to work and pick us up at the end of the day. One didn’t worry about child molesters and kidnappers back then, and I was "Red Chief" anyway. As one entered the Carnegie Museum from the library, members of the Pittsburgh symphony playing Baroque music entertained them. I, with my active imagination, always looked at those great columns of marble and pretended to myself that they were court musicians, hired to entertain me, the prince. That first record was the Brandenburg Concertos.

I spent many of the next few years avoiding the draft and spending my father’s money—changing the curriculum I was majoring in as often as most people change their socks. I finally got a degree as an adult-ed student in 1996 in the same subject I’d started with at Kent State—English! I would have chosen math both times, but the SAT scorers couldn’t be persuaded that 2+2=7.

I met my wife while visiting my sister. She had stayed in PA when my parents and I went to the left coast. I met her room-mate and fell madly in love. I told her the night we met that I was going to marry her and take her to California. I was half right. I’ve been living in PA for 28 years, now. It’s been great, because Barb and I live in a huge military retirement area. They bring their accumulated "stuff" here and taxpayers pay for those moves. Then, they sell it at yard sales before they enter retirement homes. Because of that, the interior of our house resembles the Carnegie Museum more than most homes; brassware, textiles, furniture, books—and more books—and more books besides those, and LP’s! About 10,000 of ‘em; most bought for 50 cents or less!

I have to thank one of the salesmen for Grove Cranes International for introducing me to high-fidelity sound around 1974. If I remember the set-up correctly, Craig had a set of Magneplanar Tympani IV-A’s, driven by Sumo electronics, and a record collection that was bigger than mine (at that time I’d bought new, about 500).

He played Santana’s Abraxas and had a whole lot of trouble convincing me it was a copy of the same LP I owned—there were a whole lot more instruments playing on his LP than mine! He sold me his old gear, a pair of Ezekial speakers from Loudspeaker Design Corporation and a Marantz 1120 integrated amp. He directed me to buy my first turntable, a Thorens TD160.

Shortly after that, I ran across a record store in Altoona, PA—the Music Hut—that sold used LP’s! I had "found" jazz, and someone there was getting rid of all of his. I spent a small fortune every time I was there, which was every week when I delivered goods to the chain-stores I worked for—BIG "D" Discount Stores. They sold schlock! But, it got me up to Altoona to buy LP’s! In the mid 70’s, they had the gall to sell used LP’s for $1 and $2!!!

Then came the greatest thing that ever happened to LP collectors—CD’s!!! Ah, the 80’s; 50 to 100 rock LP’s for 10 cents each at many yard sales, 2 or 3 hundred jazz records for 20 bucks, 500 classical records for $5. Heaven!

My wife and I still hit the yard sales each weekend, not as lucrative as in the past, but once in a while.... This summer I found about 50 great jazz records at about 7 different sales. Last summer, while looking through a pile of about 1000 classical albums, the home-owner walked over and said, "Take ‘em all for $5." What could I do, he forced me! I wrote about a few yard-sale antics and, as a lark, sent the article to Art Dudley of Listener, saying that I’d enjoyed writing the article and I thought he’d enjoy reading it. He wrote back saying he’d put it in the next Listener and PAID me!

Sadly, and happily too, the demise of Listener has brought me to these pages. I hope you enjoy my insanity as much as I enjoy writing about it. Great sound is, well, GREAT! But great music is life!

I hope to write about what interests me the most—equipment that gives the most musical enjoyment for the least money. I can’t, on a substitute teacher’s income, buy "THE BIG STUFF." If a school district ever hires me full-time instead of a 22-year-old blond female, then my wife’s 32 year-old teaching income and mine combined will allow me a taste of the outrageous (not that I’m at all bitter about that).

Loudspeakers

I use Infinity P-FRs. I was impressed by their looks, and further impressed by a number of reviews, but when I finally decided to buy a new pair of speakers, the way the Infinities made guitar music sound convinced me they would be mine. When I met the head of U.S. sales for MIT Cables at that time, she told me about the development of the speakers (she had worked for Infinity before joining MIT), and reinforced my desire to have them in my home. (Of course, it may have been that she was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever met.) The P-FRs are very efficient (96dB). The manual states they can be driven by as little as 10 watts. I have always driven them with considerably more than that, 100 watts at present.

Electronics

My preamp is an Anthem Pre-1 (internally selectable, 61 or 78 dB). When I replaced the original Sovtek 5V4G in the outboard power supply with a Mullard 5AR4, a very good preamp was transformed. Putting Mullard 6922s in the input and output stages and Mullard 12AT7s (CV4024) in the phono stage made it a giant killer! Using Walker Valid Points pumped up the sound quality a few more notches. An MIT power cord feeds the power supply.

The amplifiers are 100-watt Monarchy 100SE monoblocks, whose outputs have been modified by Lloyd Walker. These are warm, yet very detailed amps. The combination of the Pre-1 and the 100SEs produces a sound that I’d been reaching for since I got seduced by high fidelity sound—warm, perhaps too warm for many listeners, but not so much as to destroy great recordings or homogenize all recordings. Any equipment change I make is easily discerned. MIT power cords connect the amps to the wall socket.

Sources

My CD player is an Audio Alchemy CD Pro, a player with a laid back sound, but capable of showing both the details and the defects in any music played through it. The great sound of this player is enhanced—shockingly so!—by the use of Walker Valid Points. Another tweak is the use of an MIT power cord.

To play LPs, I have a VPI Mk. IV turntable with a JMW10 arm, sitting on Valid Points. I use a Benz Glider cartridge, now growing hair in its ears, and a new addition, a Dynavector 20XL.

Cables

Interconnects and speaker cables range from home-made "twisties" to MIT and Goertz.

Accessories

I live in farm country. Farmers have need for repair facilities, including  welding shops, of which there are plenty. Although my turntable sits on a Target wall stand, all other equipment sits on racks designed by me and welded by a gentleman who does lots of work for the farmers in this area. Many, many techniques are used to control vibration and isolate the components—multi-layer shelving employing the use of hard woods and/or cork, foam rubber, and MDF. I experiment regularly with different combinations of materials, using spikes, Vibrapods, sorbothane, and other things under the shelving and on top of the racks. Bags of lead shot or sand are used on top of the speakers and in other places within the system. I use Monster power conditioners for the sources and the preamp, but no conditioning for the amplifiers. Other conditioners in the house are Adcom. A VPI record cleaner with both homemade and commercial solutions is used to clean LPs.

The equipment is housed in my living room. Others have tried to make me move to my unfinished basement, but I do not wish to divorce myself from my family. The room is on the small side (15.5’ x 14’8" x 7’10"). My wife is a spinner/weaver and collects textiles ranging from small rugs to camel blankets, which are hung on the walls. The house is close to 100 years old, and has lathe and plaster walls. The wooden floors are covered with wall to wall carpeting, the ceiling with acoustic tiles that I painted to reduce their "absorptiveness." The sound of the room is neither too lively nor dull and lifeless.

 

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