Dean Clough

December 24, 2021

Portico Darwin: Arrival LA + Santa Claudiophile

I know:  two newsletters on audio gear within just a week or two is a bit much.  Of course, you could always go outside or volunteer to help sick children.  But we leave for LA later today for 3 nights, so I had to keep it easy.  In fact, I am being responsible, and recycling. 

Because a recent outing with the esteemed brewmaster Gunther Strobel led me to specify a turntable-focused audio system for Mr. Strobel's own Man Cave.  He recently visited mine, and I naturally showed off its audio system:


I took it upon myself to specify for the mild-mannered brewer a kick-ass audio system for his Cave - itself more like a fine gentlemen's club in comparison to my own rough-hewn den of toxic masculinity. 

As I put the email together to Gunther, it dawned on me there might be others that would be interested.  In fact, last Sunday, the late night party animal Emery Riddle and I chatted about this very same subject.

So here is a system that provides audiophile-grade sound, with the ability to play vinyl as well as stream anything available.  You can do the whole thing for around $1,000.  Frankly, I wish I was starting over so I could buy and enjoy all of this Diamond Certified musical goodness.  

First, some turntable info.

  • Get one with direct drive if you can afford it
  • Get a quality cartridge, if it doesn't come with one
  • Spend as much as you can, but there are plenty of values, like the Audio Technica AT-LP5x, or Sony's PS-LX310BT (which is only $230 [!]) - although both are belt-driven, vs. direct drive
  • Don't forget the vinyl and needle brushes, or the vinyl itself

Next, you need a flexible, quality phono preamp.  This is what I have but it is also perfect for the powered speakers I'm suggesting (below).

Phono Preamp:  Cambridge Audio Alva Duo

For private listening, headphones.  This will give you the absolute purest analog experience possible in conjunction with the turntable and phono preamp.  I've wrote about these (and other headphones) before - they are wonderful.

Wired Headphones:  Sony MDR7506

With those components alone, you'd have everything you need to be able to listen to the turntable, and I will say with confidence you couldn't have better sound for less.  Indeed, it is audiophile quality.  But you have the headphones only and that can get lonely.

To finish the job, add powered speakers.  They have their own amplifier, so nothing else is needed.  Plug the phono preamp's output into the inputs on the speakers, unplug the headphones, and you've got a cranking, high-quality system.  The super cool thing about the speakers I'm suggesting (other than their sound quality) is that they also have an integrated Bluetooth receiver - meaning <anything> on your phone or anyone else's can stream over the speakers.  That opens up opportunities to use a service like TIDAL on a phone or iPad, and have everything - TIDAL has essentially every album in the world.  The turntable and anything on your (or anyone's) phone would work great with these speakers.

Powered Speakers:  Audioengine A5+

A total of 4 components (OK 5, as the speakers are 2 pieces), audiophile-grade sound, all for around $1,000.   

Merry Christmas tomorrow, to you and yours.

Many of my friends, while showering praise on this newsletter, often ask:  "Who is Hunter Deuce and why do you give him so much press?"  This is why.

"Good God, this post had me holding my sides - you're such an old crank - but I love you (Ugh, now how's THAT for friendly and chippy?).  Anyway, wrapping it up with Huntley/Brinkley reminded me of this gem from Bloom County, circa 1980's:


And since you're not on Facebook, you missed my yuletide greetings with probably my all-time favorite Christmas songs:

Donny Hathaway / This Christmas"

Wait?  What?  People are still on Facebook?  Or Instagram?  Or WhatsApp? 

For those reading this that live in colder climates, sorry.  Many Bay Area natives will tell you it is Winter - not Fall as many would suspect - that is their favorite season.  Can you blame them?  This was last Sunday in Santa Clara.


Thank you to any one that is reading this newsletter.

Some (in all honesty:  none) have asked, "Mr. Darwin, so much of KLUF is prehistoric, might you have anything from this century?" 

I didn't understand the hub-bub over this album upon its release, but I'm still sure it would sound pretty good on that system above.  Here is Daft Punk and "Random Access Memories".  Plus, for some reason, I'm seeing Nile Rodgers everywhere.  Whatever - it's at a minimum a Serviceable record, maybe even better.


Fun fact:  after I titled this newsletter, I was curious.  And yep, was available, so I bought it for $12.  Although it's only useful for about 6 weeks a year, maybe I'll don my Casa Integration thinking cap and design/publish a fun system each Christmas at my site.  Would you put it past me? 

I just love coming up with company names.  Here is my history, although I am conveniently leaving out duds like "The Riverside Group" and "Airio Partners" . . .

  • Santa Claudiophile and

Do you like the logo?  Too light-hearted?


About Dean Clough

Plans To Enjoy Life.