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madhu 6:06am on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010 
False Advertising The images for this product are fairly misleading. This charger does NOT directly plug into a GO 910 GPS.

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Documents

doc0

E-ZINE

FRUGAL

ENTHUSIASTS

Affordable$$Audio
Issue Seventeen: May 2007
Silver Era Pioneer SX-780 Receiver

by Craig Johnson

Specifications Continuous Power Output: 45 watts per channel (8 ohms from 20Hz-20kHz with no more than 0.05% total harmonic distortion), 45 watts per channel (4 ohms from 20Hz-20kHz with no more than 0.08% total harmonic distortion) Damping Factor: 30 (20Hz-20kHz, 8 ohms) Line Input Sensitivity/Impedance: 150mV/50k ohms Phono Input Sensitivity/Impedance: 2.5mV/50k ohms Frequency Response (Line): 5Hz-80kHz +0,-1dB Frequency Response (Phono): 20Hz-20kHZ 0.2dB Hum and Noise (IHF, short-circuited, A network, rated power): 76dB (phono), 95dB (line) Bass control: +8dB, -7dB (100Hz) Treble control: +7dB, -6dB (10kHz) Loudness Contour (volume @ -40dB): +6dB (100Hz), +3dB (10kHz) Low Filter: 15Hz (6dB/oct.) Power Requirements: 120V, 60Hz Power Consumption: 150W Dimensions: 18-7/8(W) x 5-1/2(H) x 12-5/8(D) in. Weight: 24lb. 11oz
The first real audio system I ever experience was on a family vacation to my Uncles home. I dont recall much about his system other than lots of silver faceplates and analog meters, but the look and sound stuck with me all the way home. After a years worth of cutting lawns and washing dishes I purchased my first stereo systema Pioneer SX-680 receiver, EPI 100 speakers and a Technics SLB3 turntable (the receiver and speakers are long gone, but the turntable still does its thing in my basement system). So perhaps I was simply trying to recapture my youth when I began searching online for old Pioneer silver era receivers a few months ago. It wasnt long before I came across several SX-780 receivers available for local pickupIm reluctant to ship these large, heavy components both due to cost and potential damage. Nostalgia and an itchy auction trigger finger got the best of me and I was soon sneaking 3 of them through my front door, ranging in price from $40 to $100 each. I didnt mind paying a bit extra for the last one since it was recently bench-tested and serviced, an important consideration when buying vintage equipment. Speaking from experience, it also seems that many sellers do not know the true definition of mint condition. Be wary if there are no close-up photographs showing all angles of the receiver, and even if there are does not guarantee it is operationally mint. The SX-780 seems to be one of the more prevalent vintage Pioneer receivers available today. Whether this is due to their durability or popularity Im not sure, though my guess is this was one of Pioneers higher volume models. It sold from 1978 to 1980 with a list price of $325 to $399 depending Affordable$$Audio !
upon the year. Initially built in Japan, production switched to S. Korea at some point as evidenced by the varying tags on the back of my units. The original Pioneer literature rates continuous power output at 45 watts per channel into both 8 and 4 ohms, with hum and noise at 95 db through the line level inputs (see specifications for details). After 25 years, I was finally moving up to the next model in the lineup! The Silver Era Look There is something about the glitter and glow of these silver era receivers with their brushed metal faces, bulb-lit displays and bouncing VU meters that is mesmerizing and a bit like sitting in front of a fireplace in the dark. Not quite the warm embrace of tubes reflected off of polished chrome, but comforting just the same. The SX-780 is the middle-of-the-road model from one of Pioneers last series of receivers (denoted by the 80 in the model number) before they switched to digital meters and black faceplates/casework. The sides and top are finished with a faux vinyl woodgrain (real wood was used on some upper models and older series receivers). The woodgrain film on one of the receivers I purchased was peeling off to reveal the horrid beige color of the laminate underneath. Since the case was not dented or gouged, a can of spray paint transformed it into a rare, one-of-a-kind, flat black SX780. Behind the front display window there are dual analog power meters, the AM/FM tuning meter and radio station frequency scale. A quick twist of the heavy tuning knob at the far right sends the station pointer smoothly across the scale, but only if it is properly lubed (I had to disassemble one of the receivers and lubricate the tuning knob which had frozen up). Across the bottom are the various control levers and knobs, all of which feel much smoother and more substantial than the plastic pushbuttons of modern designs. There are controls for bass, treble, low filter, FM muting, source selection, stereo/ mono, tape monitor, balance, volume and the eras ubiquitous Loudness switch as well as a headphone jack. If they have not been used in a while, the switches and pots can become noisy or even inoperative due to dust and oxidation and may need to be cleaned. Around back are input jacks for phono and auxiliary sources (this is before CD players) as well as two tape loops. These jacks will likely need to be cleaned and deoxed, especially if the receiver has been stored in an attic or basement for years. Also, the push-type speaker terminals found on the SX-780 have a common problem in which the button gets stuck in the in position making it difficult (or impossible) to attach speaker wires. Luckily, with two sets of terminals you can always use the B speakers. Other features include an AM bar antenna, connections for external antennas and switched/unswitched power outlets. The upper Pioneer models give you more inputs as well as a preamp/amp loop out. The Sound Call me biased, but I had no illusions that the SX-780 was going to displace my current preamp/amp combination consisting of a Reference Line Preeminence One passive pre and PS Audio HCA-2 power amp. Moreover, no one in their right mind is going to pair the SX-780 with the Magnepan MG1.6 speakers. But I never claimed to be sane, so thats exactly what I did. Source music in my 13x18.5x8.5 listening room came from a Squeezebox SB3 with an Elpac linear power supply as a transport running through a Cary 306/200 CDP/DAC. Bass was impressively powerful and plentiful though not necessarily tight and controlled. While there are conflicting views regarding the actual auditory effect of damping factor on bass control, the SX780 is relatively low by todays standard for solid state amps at only 30 into 8 ohms, which would theoretically drop to only 15 with the 4 ohm Magnepans. The potent yet somewhat loose deep bass combined with a midrange and upper bass that seemed forward and tipped up a bit gave the SX-780

a pleasantly warm and punchy sound with a lot of body and heft. This was most noticeable (and enjoyable) on small scale, acoustic stringed instruments as it seemed to enhanced their resonance and presence in the room. However, engaging the Loudness contour simply delivered too much of a good thing and the sound became excessively bloated and overpowering in the lower registers. Fun for parties and head-banging, but I keep it turned off most of the time. In the upper frequencies, I became aware of a grittiness and increased sibilance which on vocals seemed to mask the singers nuances. Jeff Tweedy on Wilcos Jesus, etc (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), a song I greatly enjoy for the emotion he imparts, lost some feeling as his subtle inflections were made more difficult to hear. Likewise, Tori Amos voice on Strange Little Girl lacked the details in her breaths and sighs between lyrics that communicate the emotion of the songs. It also caused cymbals to take on a fuzzy shimmer as sharp transients tended to get lost in the mix. The sound was not nearly as sweet and open on the top end as I am accustomed to with the Maggies, and imparted a slightly uncomfortable edginess. Turn the volume up, and it became difficult to follow individual instruments and vocals as this edginess jumped forward, especially through complex passages. That also meant that when pressed with big dynamic swings, things got somewhat blurred and confused. The soundstage was clearly flatter, reduced in depth and never seeming to reach beyond the width of the speakers. Rather than transporting you into the venue, the feeling became more intimate in which the performers seemed to be in the listening room with you. While this perspective was not unpleasant, the speakers and walls just never seemed to completely disappear. Part of this may be because the SX-780 lacks the low level detail and ambience retrieval needed to portray a truly enveloping soundstage. For example, Medeski Martin and Woods Paper Bass and House Mop (Friday Afternoon in the Universe) begin with percussive instruments that usually sound like Billy Martin is playing them right next to you and as he moves about the room. But on the SX-780, the little auditory cues which create that sense of space and movement were reduced, thereby keeping the instruments anchored between the speakers. Likewise, although it did a great job portraying the body and richness of California Guitar Trios Invitation (especially Apache and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly), the fantastic ambience of this recording felt greatly restricted. This may all seem like harsh criticism of the SX-780, but to be fair it sounded much better than I expected on the Maggies. To keep things in perspective, it is almost 30 years old and produces only 45 watts compared to the 225 watts generated by my PS Audio HCA-2. Many of these issues may simply be the result of trying to push it too hard with a pair of low impedance, inefficient, current hungry speakers. Even so, throughout the listening I was surprised that the SX-780 never got excessively hot or balked at any of the gymnastics I put it through on the Maggies. Would the SX-1080, -1280 or even

Affordable$$Audio !

the enormous -1980 be a better match? Probably, but they are also comparatively rare and much pricier. Back to Reality Switching to a saner set of speakers proved to be a much better match. I recently purchased a circa 1994 new-old-stock pair of KEF Coda 9.2 speakers. Evidently a supply of these still in their original boxes were found in the back of a warehouse somewhere and Ubid.com sold them off for about $100-150 a pair shipped (there goes my itchy trigger finger again). I initially thought the darker, fullbodied house sound of KEF speakers would be too much with the SX-780 and tend to overemphasize the upper bass and midrange. But such was not the case, which may be due to the fact that the Coda 9.2 are relatively small consisting of only a 6.5 midrange/woofer with a 1 soft dome tweeter. They actually seemed to tame the top-end edginess I heard on the Maggies. Bass continued to be SX-780s biggest strength even with the much smaller Coda 9.2, and the midrange maintained its pleasantly forward and punchy presence. As mentioned earlier, I found the SX780 particularly enjoyable with solo or small group acoustic instrumentals, particularly guitar and other stringed instruments. Ode to a Butterfly from the young bluegrass band Nickel Creeks first self-titled album was wonderfully fleshed out and full bodied. Even the sharp plucking on the mandolin came through clear and bright, which I thought might be a problem based on the edginess detected earlier. The excellent compilation recording of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters (Vol. II) sounded great and the rich harmonics of this guitar style were well represented, though here again I anticipated problems with the crisp finger-picking. It would seem that the harshness on the SX-780s top-end manifests itself primarily on vocals. However, with the taming of the top-end came a commensurate reduction in detail, ambience and soundstage. The decay and air around instruments lessened and the sense of space took another step back. Of course, this may just be the result of going from large dipole planars to small ported box speakers, but that is a much more likely pairing for the SX-780. More expansive recordings did not fare as well in these circumstances, especially with big dynamic shifts. On Empire Brass Quintets Hopper Dance (Passage 138 B.C. A.D. 1611), the deep percussion coming from the far back of the venue remained powerful and strong, but lost its sense of location and was pushed forward into the same plane as the more delicate horns, even overpowering them at times. The horns themselves became a bit indistinct as individual instruments in the space. This also occurred on orchestral pieces like Saint-Saens Danse Macabre (Jean Fournet, Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra), where once again the soundstage narrowed and flattened and the percussion section occupied the same area as the other instruments. I did not spend a great deal of time exploring the phono and AM/FM functionality of the SX-780 as I viewed these as bonus features at this price. Brief comparisons with my Monolithic Sound PS1/HC1 phonostage showed the SX-780 to be much less detailed and relatively thin sounding, not what I would expect from vinyl. As for FM radio, it pulled in stations quite well (which is never a problem in my area) and was quite listenable, but I am not a fan of radio other than for background music and news. Enter the Sonic Impact T-Amp At around $30 plus the price of a good power supply (either a 12v plug-in supply or rechargeable SLA battery), the tiny Sonic Impact T-Amp is nearly the same price as a decent Pioneer SX-780. So how do these wildly different components compare?

The first thing that became apparent was the difference in background noise. The Sonic Impact is dead quiet, and I do mean DEAD. Not a peep. The SX-780 had a noticeable hiss from the tweeters, though this could not be heard from the listening position even with the 91db (2.83v) efficient KEF Coda 9.2. Comparing the two, the Sonic Impact provided a much blacker background from which the music emanated. Vocals through the Sonic Impact sounded considerably clearer and smoother, with all of the performers inflections and nuances coming through without any excess sibilance. It seemed much more delicate, providing a greater portrayal of subtleties and details in each recording with a much more spacious soundstage. All-in-all, it is closer to the PS Audio HCA-2 though lacking in bottom-end weight and extension. Whereas the SX-780 was not as well-controlled on the low end, you felt the drums and bass lines which are only hinted at on the Sonic Impact. Compared to the Sonic Impact, the best way to describe the combined effect of the SX-780s upper edginess, midrange forwardness and powerful bass was that ultimately the music seemed forced and did not simply flow. There is a lack of coherence from top to bottom with certain frequencies and instruments tending to jump to the fore. The Sonic Impact had a much smoother, more refined and open sound that I preferred for extended listening, but it also lacked the powerful bass and midrange of the SX-780. In the end, Ive decided to leave the SX-780 on iPod duty paired with the KEF Coda 9.2 speakers for background music in the living room and dining room. I also have one in a spare bedroom with a treadmill for use while exercising. The SX-780 does a fantastic job of filling the room with music, whereas the Sonic Impact is better for kicking back, relaxing and actually listening to the music. Conclusion On nostalgia points alone I love the SX-780 or any of the silver era Pioneer components for that matter. As long as you are not overly critical, it is perfect for an inexpensive second (or even third or fourth) system, especially when coupled with a pair of warmer sounding speakers with a soft top end. Plus, you get an AM/FM tuner, phonostage, tape loops and headphone amp all in one unit. With its powerful bass and room filling sound, the SX-780 is a great receiver for entertaining. It is also quite the conversation piece, often garnering more attention than the Maggies among both my audiophile and non-audiophile friends. When guests see the SX-780 all lit up they cant help but lean in, touch the knobs and give the tuning dial a spin. Now if I could just find an old pair of EPI or Polk speakers.

doc1

E-ZINE

FRUGAL

ENTHUSIASTS

Affordable$$Audio
Issue Twenty-Eight: April 2008

Acculine A3 Speakers

By Craig Johnson
craigjohnson@affordableaudio.org Specifications 3" wideband planar-magnetic flat-panel high frequency unit Dual high-excursion aluminum 135mm mid-woofers Bass reflex acoustic alignment Magnetically shielded Frequency Response: 45Hz-22kHz Sensitivity: 89dB Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms Power Handling: 10-150W Finish: Simulated black ash PVC Dimensions: 39.8 x 9.1 x 9.7 Net Weight: 35lbs each Price per pair: $499 www.theaudioinsider.com
The Acculine brand of speakers is a value-oriented series sold through The Audio Insider website alongside some much pricier offerings from Gamut, Swans and Dana. Though their A1 monitor did not take the top honors in the blind monitor shootout detailed in the October 07 edition of Affordable$$Audio, it did receive much praise for its remarkable sound quality as one of the lowest-priced entries in that competition. I was originally contacted to review the A1 monitor, but instead decided to give the floor-standing A3 a try, since this would free me from the complications of locating appropriate stands. Besides, the $250 bump in price seems like a fair trade-off, since it eliminates the cost of stands and gives you an extra mid-woofer in each cabinet for presumably deeper output. The Acculine A3 is a relatively sleek, narrow tower dressed all in black. At this price point I was not expecting the fit-and-finish to be outstanding, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality. They are reasonably weighty speakers and feel quite solid and well-damped for an economy brand. They also come with spikes that thread into the attached bottom platform. The spikes terminate with small balls on their tips which will help prevent damage to wood floors, so youll probably want to replace these with something sharp if you need to pierce carpet. Another surprising feature for a speaker at this price point is the use of a 3 Radia-technology planar-magnetic flat-panel tweeter rather than a traditional dome tweeter. As a Magnepan devotee, Ive always been partial planar drivers and very curious regarding the Radia units in particular, which have been cropping up in some highly regarded and much more expensive speakers. Below the planar tweeter on each speaker resides a pair of aluminum cone midrange/woofer drivers in a rear-ported bass reflex design. The speak-

Affordable$$Audio

ers also have dual sets of binding posts to facilitate biwiring or biamping, which I made use of with my internally biwired DH Labs Q-10 speaker cables. Warming Up Initially, I put the A3s through some extended calisthenics in our exercise room, driving them with a vintage Pioneer SX-780 receiver. Right out of the gate it was apparent that these speakers can generate a prodigious amount of bass. Not necessarily deep, bone-rattling bass (youll still want a subwoofer for that), but the mid and upper bass frequencies are quite powerful, giving the music a lot of body. My wife usually just rolls her eyes at the equipment moving in and out of our rooms, but in this case she commented (unsolicitedly, I might add) that she really liked the sound of the Acculines as they seem to fill the room. I agreed with my wife, but you also run the risk of getting too much of a good thing if you back them up close to a wall, which is perhaps due in part to their rear-ported design. Granted, the old Pioneer always strikes me as having a slightly over-emphasized and sometimes unruly bass response, but with the Acculines, I found I could easily exacerbate this by reducing their distance from the front wall, and moving them out only very slightly was only a temporary solution in this room. The bass on tracks like Laurie Andersons Slip Away, One Beautiful Evening and My Compensation (in particular) from her Life On A String album became overwhelming and almost ponderous, swamping the details and upper frequencies, while drawing my attention away from the spaciousness and depth of these and other tracks on the album. However, once I tamed the bass by really moving the speakers out into the room, the sense of spaciousness and smooth, refined sound generated by the tweeter came through clearly. It quickly became apparent from my initial listening during the break-in period that the BG planar tweeter has a remarkable sound and is in some ways very reminiscent of my Magnepans which reside in the main listening room. This was a surprise, since Ive always assumed the qualities I like in Maggies stem primarily from their dipole nature rather than their planar technology. The Main Event My main listening room provides much more flexibility with regards to placement and distance from the front wall. I was able to locate the Acculines farther out into the room, about 3.5 feet from the front wall, and confirmed that a wider than typical placement suits these speakers. They can tolerate a good distance between them without any sacrifice in imaging, but bring them in just a bit too close together and the soundstage noticeably collapses. With the Acculines setup properly (out from the front wall and spread apart more so than usual), the planar tweeter combines with the solid bass to create a huge soundstage that is impressively wide, deep and tall. The need to keep the Acculines well separated was apparent as I experimented with speaker placement on song after song from the bevy of tracks I use to evaluate soundstaging. This included the Empire Brass Quintets Hopper Dance (Passages 138 B.C. A.D.) which begins with a thunderclap emanating from far at the back of the performance space, followed by a series of drums, slightly more forward but still spread across the back. It was easy to hear each separate drum hit roll through the space on the Acculines. Then the horns are added to the performance, each clearly delineated and further forward, yet still with excellent left-to-right placement reaching outside the width of the speakers. Though it is not quite as expansive a recording, it was similarly easy to hear the individual instruments as well as the space around and between them on The California Guitar Trios Invitation. On other speakers, Ive heard the instruments get lost in the soundstage during the more rambunctious tracks, but such was not the case with the Acculines. Switching to a solo guitar recording where you wouldnt expect to notice the soundstage as much, like Tuck Andress Reckless Precision, you get a great sense of the space from the small cues that come through, like the brief low-level echoes and wonderful decay of tones from his 53 Gibson. The soundstaging through the Acculines also excelled with

ambient electronica tracks from William Orbit and Brian Eno. Compositions like this are always instructive when it comes to creating a solid, palpable soundstage from these ethereal works. I also found that the degree of toe-in doesnt seem to affect the tonality of the Acculines as much as on other speakers. Rather, the toe-in seems to have a greater impact on the forwardness of the speakers, but I could adjust that without making the speakers seem overly bright or too recessed in the upper frequencies. Point the Acculines directly at the listening position for maximum forwardness with an image that comes out in front of the speakers, or aim them behind the listening position for greater ambience, spaciousness and depth. Towards the end of my listening, I picked up Jack Johnsons new album Sleep Through The Static, which (like his other albums) is recorded in a very intimate manner that seems to put him right in the room with you as he sings and strums. By adjusting the toe-in on the Acculines, I was able to easily change my perceived distance from him and how large the recording space feels. I preferred the more laid back, ambient presentation with less toe-in, but it is good know that you can go to a frontrow, intimate perspective without the speakers becoming excessively bright and edgy. As you can tell, Im quite taken by the tweeter used on the Acculines, and it really is the heart and soul of these speakers. They are very detailed and revealing while maintaining a smooth, open sound. However, poor recordings are not going to be massaged to sound good. I found myself frequently going back and listening again to certain tracks when I thought I heard an anomaly in the speaker, only to find the anomaly was an ugly wart in the recording. But with an excellent recording, like V.M. Bhatt and Ry Cooders A Meeting By The River, then you are in for a treat. Ganges Delta Blues, my favorite track on the album, begins with the two artists exchanging riffs, Bhatt on the left playing the mohan vina (an instrument he created that combines the sound of a sitar with a Spanish guitar) and Cooder on the right playing his Western-style slide guitar. Without the details to let you know that the other performer is still there, this back and forth can sometimes come off as a recording trick, sounding like it is simply panning between separate tracks on each channel. The Acculines accurately present this as two performers in the same space having a conversation via their instruments, along with the finger movements and natural sounds of the instruments that enhance the reality of the performance. The A3s allowed this sense to be fully portrayed, and they did so without sounding forced, etched or excessively forward, as can be the case with detailed speakers that lack an equal measure of smoothness. My main quibble with the Acculines is a midrange that seemed a bit recessed and on the cool side of neutral. They definitely do not portray a lush sound, but rather what can best be described as slightly dry. This was most noticeable on certain instruments like Wayne Horvitzs fantastic Hammond B3 sounds with Zony Mash, on both the Cold Spell and Upper Egypt albums. His often other-worldly tones and jams fell short of the warm, enveloping presentation I get through my Maggies. Likewise, on the recordings mentioned earlier, I also noticed that Laurie Andersons and Jack Johnsons vocals seemed slightly cold and raspy. Mind you, this was a subtlety that could easily be attributed to my own sonic preferences. It also may simply indicate that the Acculines are not a good pairing with the neutral and ruthlessly revealing nature of my amp, a Cullen-modified PS Audio GCC-100. However, this amp is not the sort that is likely to be paired with these speakers, which will likely be driven by more affordable integrated amps or home theater receivers. In fact, coupled to my vintage Pioneer equipment this was never a concern (though the bass got somewhat unruly with these units). I also

tried the Acculines for a brief period with the Tec-On Model 55 single-ended tube amp (review upcoming) and the pairing did not exhibit this cool midrange characteristic, sounding wonderfully fleshed out on the vocals. However, at just 4.5 watts, this amp lacked the power to really do them justice, and as I inched the volume upward, the top end became compressed and took on a dulled hands-cupped-over-the-ears sound. Conclusion It is noteworthy that such a modest floor stander, both in terms of size and price, can create such a large image and expansive soundstage that it approaches the abilities of my Magnepans. No, these are not Goliath slayers, and I am not giving up my Maggies, which have that magical edge when it comes to overall soundstage, openness and top-tobottom coherence, along with a warmer, fuller and more enveloping presentation that I prefer. But they are also more than three times the price of the Acculines and require considerably more powerful and more expensive amplification to sound their best, prices that I am willing to pay. But lets keep things in perspective. The Acculines are a great value even when compared to other sub $500 speakers. Their big, spacious sound is very enticing, and the planar tweeter is remarkably detailed without ever losing its smooth composure. When the speaker is set up correctly, the bass is powerful and deep without muddying the upper frequencies, a common problem with lower-priced speakers that try to hide their deficiencies by improperly boosting the bottom end. The Acculines dont need a lot of power to sound good, but they do like a bit of juice to get the best out of them. I would venture a guess that they would sound fantastic coupled to a slightly warmer sounding amp that is not quite as all-revealing as the new switching amps such as those from PS Audio. Perhaps a quality second-hand choice from the likes of Muse or Audio Refinement, both of which Ive had in my system at one time or another and recall that they fit this bill perfectly. Then there is the home theater receiver option, in which you could high-pass the Acculine A3s with a sub, which may allow you to use them much closer to a wall without bloating the bass. To this end, Acculine does offer a sub as well as a matching center channel and rear speakers, which would get you a complete 5.1 solution for just over $1200. If the BG planar tweeter sounds this good in a two-channel configuration, I would bet that the sound would be utterly fantastic surrounded by five of these great transducers.

Main System Magnepan 1.6QR speakers PS Audio GCC-100 integrated amp Cary 306/200 CDP/DAC Slim Devices Squeezebox 3 digital music streamer Music Hall MMF-5 Turntable Monolithic Sound PS-1 phonostage and HC-1 high-current supply Additional Equipment Tec-On Audio Model 55 integrated tube amp Wyred4Sound 200S power amp Reference Line Preeminence One passive volume control Adcom GFA-535II power amp Pioneer SX-780 receiver or SA-6500II integrated amp
Copyright 2008 Affordable$$Audio. All Rights Reserved.

 

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