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Llamatism is the website of Richmond, Va-based artist and musician, Gary Llama. Be sure to checkout the essays, howtos, and his Reviews. Enjoy!

Revell Stearman Kaydet 1/72 Model Kit

Make / Model: Revell Stearman Kaydet 1/72 Model Kit
Year: Recent?

Quality

Pretty Impressive. Solid little pieces. Easy to cut from sprues. Decals resilient. Decent enough for a 4-year-old to help with.

Ease of Assembly

Very straight forward. The wing trusses (that hold the pair together) were the only super fragile parts.

Impressions

I wanted to get my daughter a model. So we went to the model store. And we found this. Priced at $9.99. I was stoked to build this!…

fig. 1. Already molded in yellow! Very simple sprues.

…the idea was to teach her a bit about patience, and I wrote a little about this experience here. I also picked up the Testor’s non-toxic cement, so we could learn about modeling, rather than avoiding vapors…

fig. 2. Note critical tounge placement for extra detail.

…she was very into the idea of building a model. We would take time, do a part, then take a break. Overall, we did it in two days. And it gave her something to really look forward to those days. Which, on a weekend, can be a godsend for parenting mental health…

fig. 3. Model done with her paint choices and application.

…and I let her pick paint colors, and paint it herself, so it was mostly hers. Then she mentioned about wanting to play with it, and a little panic set in. But then I thought, ‘well, she will see firsthand why playing with models isn’t the greatest idea’. And within a few hours, the wings were seperated. But the experience was in her mind, and that was ultimately my goal.

Conclusion

This was a great kit to build with a 4-year old. Easy. Solid. Unfortunately, if the kid wants to play with it, and who wouldn’t at that age, it will get destroyed. But thats not the point. It was fun. And she had a blast. Looking forward to building another one with her soon!

Cables Versus Connectors

Audio cables are made from usually, one thing. Copper. It can, like most cable, come in one or two forms: Solid, or standed. Or if your like Sennheiser, you may prefere to use a ‘litz’ wire, which is an oddly varnished (coated) stranded wire which makes resoldering a total pain in the ass.

From there, you have to connect the wire, which can be bare into a binding post or terminal block, or onto a connector like a XLR or phone plug. And there onto a jack post to receive the wire into the piece of equipment.

For things that need to be soldered, the choices are generally, either eutectic solder (like Kesler leaded 60/40) or silver bearing solder. The rule is eutectic, unless soldering to a silver plated connector, then use the silver solder.

For many audiophile companies, and resultingly, audiophiles, cables are a source to IMPROVE the sound. To me, they are a failure point to fuck it up. So my rule is: 1) Appropriate gauge for current 2) appropriate connector for application 3) appropriate jack for chosen connector and lastly, 4) appropriate solder for wire type and connectors.

And that is where my fascination with cables ends.

Because from what I have encountered, the audio cables are either made well, from good parts, and soldered well, or they are not. Luckily, for most connections the good parts for a cable can be had for around $10. And the cable itself can be had for around $0.50 to $1 per foot, depending on how many channels you need. So a ten foot unbalanced cable of the best available quality would run $5 for wire, and $5 for connectors, $10.

This is why I rarely buy premade cables. Because for a similar cable, it’s going to cost more than that, but use way crappier parts. The wire itself is usually fine, it’s just terminated to cheap connectors, with loose fittings, and soldered in a way that is sparse and prone to breaking or cold joints. The only real upside of premade is usually a good jacketing or heatshrinking, which can offset the mechanical issues in the cheap connectors and bad soldering, up until the solder joint fails, at which time you have to cut all of that shit off, and now work with cheap connectors. So to me, it’s not a worthwhile expense.

When I ran MortarWorks, I hooked up my Nautilus 802 speakers with 10 gauge speaker wire, that I bought by the foot from Mogami, and terminated to a pair of Cardas solder spades that cost $15 for the set. Overall, my speaker wires cost (Maybe?) around $30? Sounded great. And I ran audio to that system using mogami wire, terminated in your average Neutrik connector.

But some folks think, that there are huge gains to be found in ‘high end’ wire, and little porcelain trussels to keep the wire off the floor (I ran mine just across the fucking carpet). And Hey, maybe they do hear something different! But if they do, I’m willing to bet it’s because something is fucked up, rather than something is right.

If you browse the market of audiophile cable, you can see audiophile cables that used aluminum as the conductor. Aluminum! You can see power cables that use what seems to be a Saran wrap type of flimsy translucent covering as the jacket on a power cable.

Oh and for the power cables…. One thought. If the power starts at the power plant, comes across the wire for miles, hits a substation, and then comes barelling down your street: Does the last four feet really matter? I mean, assuming it’s the correct gauge, assuming everything is in working order, and terminated properly, what exactly could one gain in using a esoteric cable?

Really about the only issue I have ever run into is interference, and it can be a huge problem. Things like flourescent lights will wreak havoc on your electrical system, and it will get pulled into your audio grounds. Thats why every studio should have an isolation transformer (not a ‘power conditioner’ but an isolation transformer). And you should generally run your lights (if they have dimmers, or other voltage fuckery) seperately (to ground, and perhaps to a seperate ground IE star grounding) than your audio equipment. Of if they have to be in the same place, isolate them with the Isolation transformer. Hell, I gained nearly 10 db of noise floor on my analog equipment at mortarworks by switching it’s power source to a different circuit in the building (isolated from the office equipment).

If there is one thing I have learned about us as human beings, it’s that we tend to confirm what we want to believe. And hey, maybe this is my own confirmation bias. But from what I have come across, cabling, if done right, doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg.

Thoughts on DAT as a format

Make / Model: DAT (Digital Audio Tape)

Build Quality

Eh

Sound Quality

Ok, if they work

Impressions

DAT players are old technology, obsolete these days. The tape deteriorates, and unlike analog recordings, where tape issues lead to minute losses in audio, DAT dropouts result in chunks of audio lost. So it’s relatively irresponsible to use them as a format for masters. However, a good number of masters were recorded to them when the format was in it’s heydey. So for some bands, all of their masters may be on DAT. Accordingly, mastering engineers need DAT machines.

And of the DAT Macines, there were was one ubiquitos machine, the Panasonic SV-3700/SV-3800 machine. It’s common occurence in studios throughout the world had to do with it’s basic reliability, realtively easy maintanance, and that tapes made on it, seemed to work OK on other machines. But in it’s old age, these machines have been hard to find in good working order. Heads are spec’d to be replaced every 1000 hours. The tape path needs to be thouroughly cleaned more frequently. And alot of the rubber parts are detoriating. And, like analog, the tapes themselves have been seen to need baking in some instances to elimate shedding.

What I’ve observed, is that today, for the purposes of playing back DAT, the SV family isn’t the machine to use. Oddly, it’s the DA-20 Tascam that has seemed to stand the test of time at an affordable price point. The DA-20 has some drawbacks though in it’s limited i/o selection and flimsy feeling parts. However, the Fostex version (D-5), addresses many of the i/o issues.

Overall, it isn’t really worth bothering with DAT at all, unless your aim is to have machines to archive masters already on DAT. The process is akin to running into burning buildings to save something, accordingly, I wouldn’t reccommend archiving or mastering to a format that is essentially, a burning building.

Of note: In the DAT days, I used to prefer HHB tape media over all else, as they tended to playback with the least issues. But as the tape stock has aged, I’ve found that to not be the case. The HHB’s tapes I’ve had (and perhaps it was this certain stock) tended to be noisey on rotation, and cause working machines to spit an error.

Nakamichi SR-2a Stereo Receiver


(not photo of actual unit)

Make / Model: Nakamichi SR-2a
Year: not sure
Purchased: Ebay, 2012
Price: $220

I got this amp in 2012 or so, used, again, this was to be a home stereo use, and for mix check.

Build Quality

Typical mid-fi home stereo build. Thin feeling chassis.

Sound Quality

Typical mif-fi home stereo. Honestly, about as good or bad as any $200 stereo receiver.

Impressions

It was decent, or OK. I wasn’t impressed by it, but I also couldn’t fault it for anything. The eq on the unit seemed spot on, did what it was supposed to do. It seemed like a dependable amp.

Bryston 3B-ST Stereo Amplifier

Make / Model: Bryson 3B-ST
Year: 2000
Purchased: Ebay, 2002
Price: $1000

Build Quality

Good

Sound Quality

Good

Impressions

Decent amplifier.

Built well, reliable. Great warranty.

I don’t feel like I’m the biggest fan of the sound, it’s pretty decent, but I’ve noticed they tend to do better when on their own power circuit. So it makes me think more could be done to make them sound better.

About The Site

Llamatism is a collection of things, a cabinet of curiosities, and reports from explorations on things, by Gary Llama.

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