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Having been so unproductive for this moonicipality throughout 2011, I thought I'd strip my rights to vote this year. But it’s about sharing. So here's some fun. Building DIY tube amps never was as much fun as with the Triode TRK-3488. The actual soldering was painlessly simple, the end result flawlessly beautiful on sight and sound. The best part yet? The TRK-3488 was designed with rollers in mind and not just between KT88 and EL34 but coupling capacitors. Instead of through-hole soldering for these caps, Triode purposefully arranged for them to be soldered onto gold-plated copper turret posts mounted to the PCB. That facilitates cap rolling since one doesn’t have to remove the board but only the bottom panel. In addition to Vitamin-Q caps and copper V-Caps, Victor Kung as the Canadian Triode representative also sent me a matched pair of Psvane 12AX7-T. On first listening after 20 hours of break-in the soundstage became more airy and spacious – a perfect match with the dynamic Genalex Gold Lion KT88. I can’t wait to follow up on that as soon as I get rid of the freelance advertising jobs that keep pulling my hind foot.

One unexpectedly courageous 2011 undertaking was the much belated rapprochement with a personal audio affinity that had grown since the early 70s. Don’t laugh now. I know many audiophiles who scorn Bang & Olufsen. There seem to be countless fault lines dividing two tectonic forces. But my first love was a B&O turntable, the original Beogram 4000 to be exact. As a university student with no part-time job apart from helping out in my dad’s humble eatery, a more decent audio system than his JVC all-in-one combo was something I could only dream of, never mind any upmarket B&O. By the time I could have afforded it, audiophile doctrines had already brainwashed me to never look back. How would you ever dare to admit to friends that you actually accept record decks as B&O used to call them which alienate audiophile cables with automatic tone arms that fit only their own kind of phono cartridges?

After 40 years of having successfully scared off my audiophile friends with my insanity, I regained free will. I finally came to terms with my own beological determinism and bought on eBay my long desired Beogram 4002 with MMC 20EN cartridge. But then the beological virus seeped fast and deep into my brain. Within months I expanded my collection to include a Beogram 6000 with MMC 6000 4-channel cartridge; a Beogram 4500 with MMC4 cartridge; a Beomaster 3000-2; a Beomaster 4400 and Beomaster 6000 4-channel receiver; plus an NOS MMC 6000 4-channel cartridge in a factory-sealed box and a pre-owned MMC 20CL cartridge in excellent condition.

If I have to trace back the time bomb that blasted off this midlife crisis, it was my desire to own audio equipment that could truly be called art. Jacob Jensen, B&O’s designer from 1965 to 1991, was in the same league of immortal designers as Arne Jacobsen, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Dieter Rams. His designs together with works by the others just mentioned have found homes in permanent collections of the world’s top museums, the Museum of Modern Art of New York included. In 1978 MoMA hosted the solo exhibition 'Bang & Olufsen: Design for Sound by Jacob Jensen' which included 28 B&O audio products. Only twice before had the museum honored a single company’s products with a solo exhibition – Olivetti in the 30s and Braun in the 60s.

Yet Jensen’s designs are by no means collector’s items for gold-leafing one’s artistic taste facade. They are serious audio components that perform as splendidly as they look. No other designers have fulfilled and extended the Bauhaus philosophy of 'form follows function' as brilliantly into audio gear as Jensen did. Simplicity to withstand the test of time has elevated them to monuments of industrial design. Most ultra-modern products are great CNC engineering and industrial molding marvels which allure the eyes today but most likely will lose the minds tomorrow.

Owning Jensen-designed B&O has been my obsession. Hearing it perform today compared to my 40-year old reminiscences was a huge revelation. I’ve come to realize that the major hurdle for most non-believers—equally true for B&O salesmen by the way—was/is not being able to hook them up to our own choice of loudspeakers. B&O's own speakers were the Achilles heel. No offense to Beophiles but their puffy bass and half-hearted midrange rendered them into glorified portable stereos. I have now set up two vintage B&O systems. The first consist of a Beogram 4002 turntable and a Beomaster 4400 tuner/amp. I showcase them in a newly built alcove cabinet in the dining room and match them to a pair of Glow Audio Voice One widebanders placed inside the cabinet. Such taboo placement somewhat gives the widebanders a bonus backloaded horn effect. I never imagined the full frequency sound this system delivers.

The second system is 4-channel ready and comprises a Beogram 6000 and Beomaster 6000. I have two choices for speakers. For 2-channel those are a pair of Mark & Daniel Ruby on Speaker 1 stands and a pair of JM Labs Micron on Speaker 2 stands both placed as front speakers. I can press the ‘stereo’ button for a focused and well-defined soundstage or ‘ambiophonic’ for an atmospheric presentation. The tuner is of very high quality and sounds almost like a Magnum Dynalab with very low on-frequency noise and sideband interference. The oversize precision flywheel is rock solid in accuracy but light as a feather to the touch. I have this system housed on two separate DIY platforms with castors. The tuner/amp can be rolled under the turntable when not in use.

For the first time ever I am now able to enjoy my decades old collection of CD4 (compatible discrete 4-channel) and SQ (quadraphonic matrix) vinyl in the way it was intended. The Beomaster 6000 sports a discrete 4-channel amp capable of 40wpc RMS. The Beogram 6000 record deck fitted with MMC 6000 4-channel cartridge plays CD4 LP without decoding. A red indicator will light up the tiny letters ‘4ch’ on the turntable’s control panel. SQ records have to work with the Beomaster 6000’s built-in SQ decoder. For 4-channel playback I hook up Klipsch Synergy F2 at the front and Synergy F1 in the back. The remote commander allows me to adjust left/right balance and front/rear balance. The remote control is ultrasonic and doesn’t require me to point the commander at the receiver.

Whether or not you are into surround music—I certainly am—it should be noted that ordinary 2-channel records sound utterly musical in this setup. Part of the reason I suppose is the MMC 6000 4-channel cartridge being more advanced in terms of extended bandwidth (20Hz to 45kHz) and having more sophisticated stylus engineering. The Pramanik diamond stylus is named after B&O engineer Surbir Pramanik who invented its special cut. It’s basically a refinement of the elliptical shape but more closely modeled on the shape of the cutter head. The end result is an extremely tiny radius and feather light effective tip mass (only 0.22mg) that coupled with the beryllium cantilever enables close contact with the undulating record groove to pick up every minute detail. Recommended stylus pressure similar to most B&O cartridges is only 1 gram – probably still the lightest today.

I haven’t mentioned the obviously outstanding feature of the Beogram, the tangential tonearm. It’s fully automatic and audiophiles hate that most. Without computer or chipset, this is pure genius. Everything is mechanically controlled through levers, gears, flywheels and springs which are cleverly concealed under the clean aluminum top panel. The sensing arm works on simple optical technology that is entirely foolproof with only a light bulb, no laser! The aluminum top platter has strobes to tell the sensor "hey, don’t you drop the tone arm". Place the record on the platter and the tone arm will lower itself gracefully right onto the lead-in groove. Towards the end of the record you don’t have to put yourself on alert to jump up to lift the arm. When the sensor doesn’t see any vinyl grooves, it’ll tell the tonearm "now rise". It won’t wait until the stylus hits the cul-de-sac of the groove to do that. (My semi-automatic Denon DP-59L will do that a couple of times before the tone arm is finally raised.) If you want to cue up a different track or any spot on any track, simply press and hold the forward or backward button. It’s so much like the convenience of a CD player except for remote control.

And I still haven’t told you the true benefits of the tangential tone arm. First, awesome tracking and second, consistently and perfectly balanced left and right channels. I can still remember being in the B&O showroom 40 years ago. The salesman was tilting up and gently swirling the turntable about as a record played. No skipping, no crackling, no rumbling. Imagine that forty years ago when we didn’t even know that CD players were coming. Since the tangential tone arm and Pramanik diamond stylus exactly follow the path of the vinyl cutter head, the balance between left and right channels never shifts. In the olden days I had the habit of recording my favorite LPs onto TDK metal cassettes to play back on my Nakamichi BX300 three-head deck. It was my way of preserving my treasures. I sat through the entire process monitoring with my AKG headphone eyeballing the UV meters on the Nakamichi.

One annoying issue was the fact that at the beginning of the record one channel would always be louder than the other but then gradually shift to become weaker towards the end. No matter how subtle, it was evident enough on the UV meters and audible enough with the soundstaging. So I had to constantly adjust the balance as dubbing proceeded. This persisted with Thorens, Technics, Denon and Rega turntables (all with pivoted tone arms) and AKG, Ortofon, Shure, Coral, Decca, Empire and many more cartridges. Until I rediscovered my Beogram. If you are curious enough to cross the divide but too cautious to start, let me share what I’ve come to know as the 4 Cs to vintage Bang & Olufsen enjoyment.

Choose your online seller carefully. I was badly burnt with a seller on a website called iOffer. I paid by PayPal but never received the goods. The seller just put up endless excuses and eventually ignored my emails. That’s the only and last time to buy from there. Meanwhile I had excellent experiences with eBay. The one seller I’d gladly recommend is Beo4life in the UK. He’s a long-time B&O expert who takes pride in his commodities. He knows every B&O model back to front and has the technical know-how to recondition a vintage product to the best he can. He’s honest. Anything he cannot do or any parts which are not working or are blemished, he’ll tell you. He trades mostly European models but is willing to do business with North Americans. He sold me a good-as-new Beogram 4500 retrofitted with 120V transformer from a US donor model. You don’t have to wait until he posts his goods on eBay. I told him I lost a bid for a Beomaster 6000 and he found me one in excellent working condition a few months later complete with remote commander.

Check all details before you buy. Check the model, the version year and specs to make sure that it is exactly what you want. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the amount of information available online. The helpful friendly people from devoted B&O communities like, and are awesome.

Call on expert help to do the restoration. You can’t expect a piece of audio equipment with 30 years of dust shipped from another continent to be fully functional. Even if you are handy enough to follow the repair manual, it’s always wise to ask around the above websites (I signed up with Beoworld). Check their extensive FAQ before you post questions. These people are more than willing to help. If the repair proves to be beyond your capability, contact your local B&O dealer. I was fortunate to find master technician Boris Kuzmin at the Toronto shop. Boris has more than 20 years experience working on B&O gear. He painstakingly restored my Beogram 6000 and Beomaster 4400 to their old glory. He is still working on my Beomaster 3000-2.

Connect to the modern world with adaptive cables. B&O’s infamous mini-DIN audio connectors and 2-pin/4-pin speaker plugs are tested and proven audiophile deterrents. Those are headaches of the past. Steve Marriott of Sounds Heavenly has everything worked out for you at extremely reasonably price. from input DIN-to-RCA cables to iPod cables, even spare parts (plugs) for you to DIY your own cables.

As for replacement phono cartridges, other than searching for NOS or resell items, you may consider aftermarket replacements made to B&O specs by Sound Smith and Elexatelier. While everyone is trying so hard to make it so much more than just convenient to enjoy these timeless B&O designs, I still wish that someone at Bang & Olufsen was bold enough to make a 2012 resolution and bring back all these Jensen masterpieces to production again. If they do, I hope they make everything exactly the same except for adding to the Beogram turntables an auxiliary RCA output to bypass the built-in phono amp. Looking at newly designed tangential tone arms so uninvitingly complicated and unforgivably pricey, there’s got to be a market for the original Jensen work of art.