Jim Campilongo: Telecaster Master & Audio Enthusiast Jim Campilongo's Hi-Fi System

Sidebar 1: Jim Campilongo's Hi-Fi System

I would call Jim Campilongo an audiophile, but he doesn't think of himself that way. "I watch videos on YouTube sometimes, guys talking about cables or super-expensive speakers. To me, that's an audiophile, if we're going to define one." Fair enough.


Whatever you call him, Campilongo appreciates good sound. His current system is a mix of old and new: Marantz DV8300 universal disc player; Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable with Ortofon 2M Red cartridge; McIntosh C 26 solid-state stereo preamplifier (introduced in 1968); Dynaco Dynakit Stereo 70 (aka ST-70) tubed power amplifier (introduced in 1959); and first-edition Klipsch Heresy loudspeakers (introduced in 1957).

"I only recently got the Pro-Ject turntable," Campilongo tells me. "Everybody said they were great. And the Ortofon 2M Red cart sounds fantastic. My old turntable started dying. It was a Dual CS 2000 turntable with a generic DJ cart. I got the Pro-Ject from Turntable Lab. Brought it home and it blew me away how much better it sounded than my old Dual."

Here's a closer look at a few of the components in J.C.'s system:


McIntosh C 26 solid-state stereo preamplifier: One of McIntosh's first solid-state preamps and the first one with an all-glass front panel, the C 26 is a marvel of 1960s engineering, with an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to user controls: In addition to tone controls, HF filter, loudness, tape one and tape two, monitor, speaker switches, balance, and headphones, the C 26 lets you separate, reverse, sum, and wide-pan the music signal to your heart's content.

Regarding its stereo and reverse functions Campilongo says, "Let's say if a record has the vocals on the left and the music more on the right, like early Beatles, you could reverse that. Or you could have all right channel or all left channel. And you can increase bass or treble for each channel, which comes in handy because there are records that are mixed really drastically, vocals all on one side, for example, so you can add bass on the channel where bass is weak or has extreme panning."

"And I like that the controls really work," he adds. "I like the loudness setting and, overall, it's a clean-sounding unit, there's no coloring. If I'm going to add bass, I hear bass. If I'm going to take away treble, I really hear it and it seems legitimate."

Marantz DV8300 universal disc player: "I just thought it sounded really good," Campilongo said. "It sounded way better than the cheapo one I had, and I know this is an audiophile magazine and I want to sound informed, but I use my ears, and the Marantz sounded way better. It has a nice remote; it's a vast improvement and has me enjoying CDs even more."


Dynakit Stereo 70 amp and Klipsch Heresy speakers: One of the most popular tubed stereo power amplifiers of all time, the Stereo 70 was available assembled from the manufacturer ($129.95) or as a kit ($99.95), starting in 1959. More than 300,000 ST-70s were sold. The amp uses two EL34 power tubes per channel in a push-pull, Ultralinear configuration to produce 35Wpc; the tube complement is rounded out by two 7199 pentode/ triode tubes and a 5AR4 rectifier.

"I've had the Dynakit for 20-plus years," Campilongo told me of his beautiful, earth-brown ST-70. "I paid 800 bucks for the McIntosh. $500 for the Dynakit. I found the McIntosh online, and the Dynakit through a friend in San Francisco, from a guy who refurbishes them. Now they're between $800 and $1000 from that same guy."

"I love the Dynakit," he added. "It softens the sound of harsh CDs. The Dynakit makes them sound more like vinyl. It's warm sounding. And the Klipsch Heresys are powerful. And that's what I wanted, some power. And thankfully with the Dynakit I couldn't imagine the Heresys sounding harsh. Sometimes the Klipsch are perfect; if I put on a Tribe Called Quest LP, for example, they sound magnificent. But every once in a while, I play something that will sound harsh. The Dynakit softens stuff up. And it looks great when the lights are off. It and the McIntosh are so beautiful."—Ken Micallef

Metalhead's picture

Thank you Mr. Micallef for this article.

Really enjoy reading about talented musicians and interesting and relevant to read about their systems and setups.

Really enjoyed this and going to have to check this cat out. A best of sounds like a must order and in vinyl (of course)!!!!!!

Spla'nin's picture

"Born at the junction of form & function" - Bill Kirchen

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Bill Kirchen - 'The Titan of The Telecaster' ...... Bill Kirchen born in the same year as JA1 :-) .......

Long-time listener's picture

How nice. And it doesn't have to cost $100,000 to put together.

Spla'nin's picture

Junior Brown would be an excellent next interview in your Telecaster Master series .. these journey men & women (I'm looking at you Rosie Flores) are NOT going to be around forever !

MFK's picture

Excellent suggestion.

creativepart's picture

Jim's great, met him at NAMM a few times. Always gracious. He's a long time member of www.tdpri.com the Telecaster Discussion Page. As other's mentioned Bill Kirchen is fabulous as is Redd Volkaert.

For more Jazz Telecaster, check out the late great Ted Greene.

Lars Bo's picture

Good stuff, Ken.

Big quotes from Campilongo like: "... when Reggie Young played guitar... it's like the song is inviting you into its home, the front door swings wide open". Man, yes - exactly; that's the feeling.

And thanks for referring to Paul Elie's Reinventing Bach - somehow overlooked that one. A very nice review of own merit, too:


Thanks, Ken

MFK's picture

Thanks to Ken and Jim. In addition to old favourites I'm familiar with Jim mentions a bunch of players to discover. Twanghounds rejoice. His playing on Zephaniah Ohora's This Highway is excellent. The album is a must hear for country fans.

Allen Fant's picture

Great article and pics- KM.
I am a big fan of anything Norah Jones.