The System is Down

Silently, unbeknownst to many out there (not that you should know—but the thoughts are on constant repeat in my head—thus I think the world knows):

I've been building a hi-fi system.

It started last summer with my Grado SR60s. Then I bought a Rega P-1 with the glass platter upgrade and blue felt mat. Then I came back to Stereophile for the summer of 2008. I first bought a Bellari VP129, that glorious piece of red circuitry.

Then there were a couple of Usher S-520s sitting in our review closet. After discussing it with their representative Stan Tracht, I bought those sparkling piano white babies. The exact same ones that Bob Reina reviewed.

Finally, I needed some amplification. I had heard the Cambridge 540a v2 earlier, and I enjoyed it greatly. (Plus, of my options, it's the one that Stan recommended.) Thus a final decision was made, and I had my system. It all happened so quickly.

After about 5 days of just looking at my components and being absolutely broke, I decided I needed to hear something. I found about one meter of Monster speaker wire in my closet. Cut it up and made the necessary attachments. The bare ends were screwed tight by the red and black terminals for my right speaker; I connected the left speaker with the small amount of leftover speaker wire. On the backs of the S-520s, the wire was screwed down tight around the posts.

I had reservations about that left speaker connection. There seemed to still be a little bit of some strange plastic laminate around the bare wire, with only a little bit of copper actually exposed to the amplifier when screwed in.

I was also missing the necessary RCAs to connect my VP129 to the amp, so I just took a Y-cable and connected my iPod to the amp's MP3 input. I played inaugural system music: "Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin.

Instantly, I noticed that something was wrong. I adjusted the balance on the amplifier to first check the right speaker: all good. Then the left: not good. The sound was muffled, wet, underground.


Maybe it was the flubbed speaker wire connection. Maybe it was the amplifier (the box had been a little roughed up during transit to my apartment). I couldn't confirm either of these because I didn't want to risk undoing the cable connection I had already worked so hard for. Wasn't this the same pair of loudspeakers reviewed by JA and BJR?


Jared Gerlach's picture

And then?? Did you do any troubleshooting? The suspense is killing us!

Robin's picture

Yes, the suspense. Do the Ushers have biwire connections (two lots of binding posts)? If so, do both speakers have the metal connectors between the the two sets of posts in place? If the left speaker doesn't, it's possible you only connected the woofer and, thus, muffled sound. Just an idea. All the best with the trouble shooting. Anything worthwhile takes effort man :)

AlexO's picture

You know, if you had made out with your girlfriend in Boston instead of sitting around listening to one channel of the iPod, none of this would have happened. :D

David Nighorn's picture

Ariel,You need to do a better job of connecting your system. At this point, you'd be lucky that you didn't fry something. If you are broke, then I recommend some radio shack speaker cable and a couple of sets of their 'gold' interconnects. This won't set you back more than $30 total. Then carefully connect everything. Robin makes a good point about the bi-wire 'jumpers'. If you don't see a strip of metal connecting the upper and lower speaker binding posts, then create them using short strands of speaker cable. (I know this from painful, embarrassing experience.) Make sure that the speaker cables are in phase (red to red, black to black) and that your interconnects are also in phase. Good luck.

mrlowry's picture

That "strange plastic laminate" needs to be stripped away. I'd bet money on it.