I’ve been interested in audio since I was a music student at the University of Nebraska. The DIY side of the hobby appealed to me right away. I scrounged some cheap components and built myself a pair of speakers and started hanging out on the audio forums. After grad school, I had a little more space and time (get your Master’s degree in trombone performance and you’ll have nothing but free time), so I began a couple more projects.

I discovered single driver loudspeakers and found that they presented music in a completely different way from any of the multi-way speakers I had heard (and I’ve heard a bunch, from budget bookshelves to huge Wilsons and Egglestons). Instruments and voices retain the same rich and intense sound I hear in real life. Sure, there are some tradeoffs, but a couple of sonic pimples bother me a lot less than the airbrushed, plastic-y, smoother-than-life sound common to conventional high end.

I also came across some older fullrange drivers. I liked the idea of them, but I wasn’t happy with the sound. A good sounding pair of Radio Shack fullrangers really got me to thinking. Many modern fullrange drivers are built to look awfully fancy. The few that aren’t have features more targeted to pro audio use. I wondered if it was possible to build a really great sounding speaker without the fancy looks and marketing. After some discussion with a nearby manufacturer, Betsy was born.

And the “Us”? Well, I live in St. Cloud Minnesota with my lovely (incredibly tolerant) wife and little grey poodle. The burros (Betsy, Barney and Buffy) live in Nebraska on my father’s farm. WBAL is really just me, but who has an “about me” tab?

For fellow audio geeks, here are some details about the WBAL system. I hate to say “reference system,” but maybe my preferences will help you judge whether or not you’re a kindred spirit.

CD Player: Philips CDB-630 (from 1989!), I modified it so the Philips TDA1541A DAC is running with no oversampling or filtering. Extraneous parts disconnected or removed. This thing crushes the 963 musically. It is tonally a little bare. I’m planning to replace the output section and maybe mod the power supply.

Turntable: Rek-O-Kut belt drive, I put it in a solid plinth. The motor sits outboard on 7.5 lbs of cast iron. Now if I could just get it to run the correct speed…

Cartridge and Arm: Denon DL-103 on an Empire Arm

Phono Preamp: Step-up transformers from a Rauland PA amp (they don’t sound too bad!) feeding a SLA battery powered Hagerman Bugle, all enclosed in a steel rat shack closeout chassis

DVD/SACD Player: Philips DVD-963SA (stock), This was my main player until a few weeks ago. It sounds nice, especially with the “audio direct” button pressed and upsampling to 192khz. It’s pace and rhythm are no match for the old Philips.

Amplifier: LM3875 Chip Amp, Non-inverting BrianGT boards, fancy minimalist parts (no zobel, no input cap, etc, Peter Daniel spec’d Riken and Caddock resistors), IAG chassis, Avel Lindberg 2x22V toroid, PEC hot molded carbon pot, Grayhill selector, all PTFE wiring, Cardas Patented Binding Posts
Amp in progress: Eli Duttman’s El Cheapo, 6V6, with salvaged Sherwood iron, a choke input supply, salvaged motor run oil caps, surplus chassis and cheap parts where possible. This is a Wild Burro-style amp. I expected it to be an improvement over the chip amp. We’ll see.

Speakers: Betsys of course! I have regular Betsys in OB’s (as detailed under projects). My main speakers are BetsyK’s in BIB’s. They are huge. They were a pain to build. I spent $400 on plywood alone. I love‘em and my wife tolerates them. But in many ways, the Betsy OB’s are as good or better.

Cables: all Belden, most according to Jon Risch’s recipies. I use Pass and Seymour plugs and outlets. The Betsy OB’s currently have twisted 18g Radio Shack hook up wire. I just got a bunch of Plenum rated Cat5, so I’ll be experimenting with it for Burro style speaker cables and IC’s.