London DIY HiFi

The Illusion Engine

by Thorsten Loesch

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I am an Analogue Addict. I have not always been an Addict, but I think it started early. I used to listen to Aida and Satchmo on my parents' record player (it was STEREO - Wow!). This was one of those all-in-one units, where the speakers (such as they were) form part of the lid. Later, I had my own record-player, which was to be the first of many. 

The End of the Beginning

So began the downward slide that led me to becoming the sad case of analogomania dementis I am today. In the years to come, I was no longer content to regularly visit the Record-Shops and Libraries to get my "fix". Sadly I became involved in the production of that addictive substance, vinyl. Actually I used to do master tapes - much worse than only pressing records or pushing [selling] them.... 

Then I walked away from my home country (former East-Germany) into the sunset and started a new life. Still, I continued with this unhealthy habit and soon the record-collection I had left behind looked small compared with the new one I built up. 

Luckily another change in my life brought me to London. Here the remains (I only kept few records with me) of my old record collection sat on the shelf for a long time, due to the lack of anything to play them on. How happy I was. I was cured... happily I listened to small silver disk's spinning in a cheap piece of Lo-Fi.... I had an "honest" job at last, no more mixing desks, late night jam sessions and spinning 'dem records as DJ. 

My life had finally turned around (or so I thought). 

The Beginning of the End

I decided to buy a home-cinema system. While I was making the purchase, I noticed a cheap old second hand Sansui turntable. How nice it would be if I could have another listen to these old treasured records. How much we had been through together... Having put the turntable into my new system, I found that I could handle my latent addiction. I would listen to a side of a record every now and then and then put a CD in the Player again. I had finally controlled the old disgusting habit. What a relief! 

Then it happened. I noticed that the music just did not sound right. So I tweaked, built, modified... Once again I have a "good" stereo and my addiction returned, worse than ever. I find myself haunting seedy London second hand record shops regularly, just to feed the habit. I am spending more money on vinyl than on any other drug.... I am doing all sorts of strange things with my stereo no normal and sane person would do, just to make the sound from the vinyl that little bit better.... 

My social life is in ruins. My bank-balance a lethal negative, my girlfriend long since departed and my friends and relatives disassociate themselves from me. All the while, I sit glued to the sweet spot, panting, "Just this record, just one more side of Fleetwood Mac and then I'll go down to the pub." Of course, by then they've called "time" over an hour ago. 

Such is the state of my addiction. Doctor, HELP!

System Components


Click for big picture The turntable is an Oracle Delphi Mk III, with some upgrades to Mk IV status. The tonearm is an Origin Live modified Rega RB-250 tracking (at 2.5g) a Goldring Elite low output moving coil cartridge. 


Homebuild full function preamp using a circuit similar to the legendary Arthur Loesch preamplifier, however with a trick Input input stage using a 417A valve and a J-Fet for more gain, lower noise and better sound. The second gainstage uses a 6GK5 valve with a 5687 in the linestage rounding up the sound. 

Volume and balance control's use 32-position military grade switches and individual Holco resistors. Many other components are pretty antique and rare. 

CD Player

Pioneer DV-505 DVD-Player, heavily modified and upgraded. 

Power Amps

Homebuilt direct coupled 300B SE stereo amplifier, including fully valve regulated power supplies. Power output is around 10 to 15W per channel. 


Click for big picture Full range horn-loaded speakers (Beauhorn Virtuoso Gold), augmented below 50Hz with a Visaton/Southcoast speakers designed active 10" subwoofer and using two Visaton TL16 Supertweeters with a 1uF Audionote paper/oil capacitors as sole crossover component. 

The system manages 25Hz - 30kHz (-6dB) in room with a surprisingly flat frequency response. Sensitivity in room is 103.5dB/2.83V/1m for one speaker, measured with pink noise. 


Wide range of homemade interconnects and speaker cables, as well as XLO, DNM/Reson and Audion Silver Cables. Current choice are my latest foil, finewire and air dielectric cables. 


Click for big picture Large Michell "tenderfeet" cones under the speakers, homemade isolation platform (constrained layer damping and air suspension) under the turntable. I use a mixture of adjustable Goldring "Perfect Sound" cones and Dunlop yellow dot squash balls under the preamp and CD-Player. 

The power amplifier is placed on extra-large Goldring "Spikedampers" (point up) and is placed on a sandwich made from two glass shelves with four Foculpod Deflex isolators in between. 

Behind the listening position is a large heavy wall-hanging and loads of soft furniture, which double-up as bass-traps. For cleaning records I have the Orbitrack Record Cleaning system and a Nitty Gritty Model 2.5FI Vacuum Record cleaning machine. Record cleaning fluid is my own secret recipe, mixed from rare organic ingredients under a full moon (just kidding).

Thorsten also writes for a number of on-line audio magazines such as TNT.

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