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What has been your astronomy evolution?

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#26 kenrenard

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 08:03 AM

I started with my at the time five year old with a sky scanner 100.
I bought a pair of Nikon 10 X 50 binoculars.

We moved up to a 8 inch dob.

I then got a small AT72ED to have a different perspective than the big 8 inch.

Now I am saving up for a pair of 10 X 30 IS Binoculars.

Some day maybe a larger dob 12-15 inch.


Ken

#27 csrlice12

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 09:15 AM

As a kid, had a Tasco 60mm, now facing retirement; so I just kind of jumped in with all four paws. Did a lot of reading on sites like this one though before I bought anything. Only piece I ever got rid of was a 1.25" diagonal that came with the XLT that I gave away.

#28 Tony Flanders

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 10:50 AM

Stepping back from the question a bit, I'd say that a stargazer's evolution is all about what they observe and how they observe it. Equipment is an important part of the equation, but ultimately it's an adjunct, not the essence.

#29 YetAnotherHobby

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 12:43 PM

60mm refractor on a GEM - tag sale item, mostly frustrating, unwilling (or too lazy) to teach myself how to use it.

...fast forward 20 years....

8" CAT on goto mount - first successes in finding objects. Ignited the hobby for me.

Picked up an ETX80 thinking I would use it when camping.

12.5" dob - WOW! Aperture rules! Spent the time to learn the night sky well enough to star-hop to Messier objects...

Stellacam II - hard to use on the SCT fork mount.

6" achromat on a manual GEM - should make photography easier because it tracks better and has no clearance issues....but the combination of gymnastics and manual finding were more challenging than I anticipated.

11" SCT on a goto GEM - find stuff easily, no clearance issues, big aperture, computer control possible.

Skyshed POD - an 11" SCT on a GEM takes a while to set up and tear down, especially when everything is stored in the basement. Was getting out less and less.....

Today - I use the 11" in the POD exclusively since it is permanently setup, but for dark sky trips I take the Dob.

Eyepieces? Mostly cheap Plossls and one cherished Hyperion was what I used until recently. NEAF made Televue too tempting, so I now own two, a 27mm Panoptic and 17mm Nagler. Love them in the dob. The Leo Triplet is stunning.

Stellacam is wonderful under light pollution since I can "see" a whole lot more than I can by eye. Adds a lot of complexity which can be aggravating when it isn't cooperating. But it's like getting a 3X aperture gain, albeit without the clarity of image.

Love the simplicity of the manual dob. Star hopping is it's own reward when I am in the mood for it.

The achromat almost never gets used. Oughta sell her!

The ETX comes in handy when there isn't much space on a camping trip but the skies will be dark...so it gets out a couple times a year.

The 8" SCT is my first love - I can't bear to part with it, but it's not getting any use.

At this point I am not actively looking for gear to buy. I have everything I want to get a lot of enjoyment out of the hobby. More aperture? Too hard to move around. Better optics? Those last few percentage points are too expensive to be worthwhile (to me). Astrophotography? I have enough equipment to experiment with it, but to go any further looks like a bottomless pit of time and money. Not for me.

#30 Ed Wiley

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 08:14 PM

1956 -- 60mm refractor
1958 -- add binoculars and find something besides solar system objects
1960 -- 6" Dynascope (loved that scope! Carried me through college.)
(1966-1976): binoculars--Air Force, graduate school, family etc. Much moving, no time for scopes, just binocs.
1976 -- 8" Cave Cass (loved that scope, donated to the local school system.)
Present: what you see on the bottom plus a newly acquired C11 edge.

Evolution: The big step was finding stuff that did not consist of Luna and the bright planets, aka, star hopping. Learning to properly collimate. Finally, into citizen science work and being lazy by adding DSCs and finally go-to.

Ed

#31 kenrenard

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 08:16 PM

Stepping back from the question a bit, I'd say that a stargazer's evolution is all about what they observe and how they observe it. Equipment is an important part of the equation, but ultimately it's an adjunct, not the essence.


Tony,
I think this is an interesting topic. Just last night I viewed the moon in a different way than I had before. I know many folks dive into different aspects of stargazing. Whether double stars, deep space, lunar, planetary.

When I first started I thought I needed more and more gear. A bigger scope would show me more. While in some respects this is true, nothing can buy experience, skill and enjoyment.

I spent some evenings just scanning the sky with binoculars seeing what I can see. When I first started I discounted the views from binoculars. Or even a small telescope, much less naked eye.

As I learn more I see things differently and certainly have more objects to view whether from my light polluted yard or a dark sky. I think it's all about enjoying the night sky not accumulating more astronomy toys. Sometimes too much equipment actually detracts from our stargazing enjoyment.

Ken

#32 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 09:22 PM

Stepping back from the question a bit, I'd say that a stargazer's evolution is all about what they observe and how they observe it. Equipment is an important part of the equation, but ultimately it's an adjunct, not the essence.


:waytogo:

Good point. My equipment has changed over the years but the very essence of the observing experience has not changed... my equipment is just better suited for doing the things I like to do.

My first scope was a 60mm refractor that cost $5 at a garage sale, it was a spur of the moment purchase and I just wanted to see what I could see. I was essentially ignorant, it had one eyepiece, I don't know what it was. Early one morning I stumbled across the Orion Nebula, the rest is history.

That's what I do these days, I have better equipment, know a lot more, have developed my observing skills but I am still doing the same thing, I just like to go out at night and look around and see what there is to see.

Jon

#33 Special Ed

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 09:37 PM

It's interesting reading these individual accounts of the pursuit of AA.

My father was Air Force so I've always looked at the skies. When I was a kid in Alaska I thought that the Northern Lights were normal.

As I grew up I taught myself the constellations. Later on I received a pair of 7x35 binoculars as compensation for a construction estimate. This literally changed my view of the heavens.

Decades later, I have an observatory (the best accessory there is) and a pier mounted 14 inch CAT.

I've owned quite a few telescopes, but nothing bigger than 8". I think my most profound evolution in this hobby would lean more toward the learning of patience and advancing my skills in the art of observation. I realize now that I can see a whole lot more with a whole lot less than I could when I started.

Bill


I think Bill is talking about something key here. Tony Flanders (and others) recognize it as well.

I've come to have a deep and abiding respect for the observers of yore. And also for contemporary observers--some of whom post right here on CN.

Someone (I forget who) said--the more I know. the more I realize how much I don't know. That's where I'm at in my evolution.

#34 Jay_Bird

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 02:03 AM

Here’s how I see my evolution in terms of some steps we might all relate to:

The ‘hook’. What drew us into the hobby?

For me it was the exotic/romantic star names and lore that tied the night sky I saw back to antiquity.

The ‘apprenticeship’. What did we do next?

For me it was looking at all I could see from suburban sky (not a bad sky by today’s standards) and learning to use yard sale and newspaper classified ‘scopes up to 8-inch and family binoculars. Authors like Robert Jastrow, Guy Murchie, Patrick Moore, Peter Brown and more, the ‘seasonal star charts with planisphere’, and some 1940’s observing guides notably “New Handbook of the Heavens. While Comet Kohoutek disappointed, Comet West did not. Apollo ended but Viking, Skylab and Pioneer were exciting. A regional club had some middle-aged members with the patience for a high school beginner. At one outer suburb club night, my home-based sky study paid off – someone accustomed to using setting circles forget charts and books, and let me star hop his C-8 to several globulars and finally M51 with a glimpse of the Whirlpool’s spiral structure.

The ‘trade’, if this follows apprenticeship… Do we specialize or excel in some aspect?

Maybe this stage never arrived for me. I think it does for say, imagers, or dedicated amateur-pro science observers like ALPO, AAVSO, etc., but I don’t “do” or specialize in a particular thing, and am not much of an expert.

After a 15-20 hiatus of naked eye or occasional binocular use, living in more light polluted areas, punctuated by a brief interlude in better skies when a 10-inch sonotube Dob let me finally see more DSO, I moved to the southwest USA and suddenly an 80mm travel scope on a camping trip equaled the 6-8 inch views I recalled from younger days back east. Now an old C-8 offers reliable tracking and abundant detail and light grasp. A new 6-inch Newt is a nice blend of light grasp and FOV for rich field use deeper than the travel scope can show.

Contentment or … What do find we enjoy most in time, or what keeps us coming back?

This comes from moments in the backyard with binoculars or grab-and-go, a dark spot on routine walks where an angled row of trees block every streetlight with an open southward view extending back past the zenith for the dog or kids and me to pause and admire, and longer but less frequent backyard sessions with larger scopes.

Outreach, especially at park settings with daytime natural beauty, or occasionally at local schools, is the public side of the hobby for me. Interest stays up from some effort to keep learning at a slow steady pace: more lunar features and geology, more proficient star hopping, new DSOs at dark sky trips, meteor showers, now some solar observing, and tracking the motion of brighter asteroids or following comets. News from current robotic exploration to discuss at outreach keeps interest up in sun, moon and planets too.

Hoping to give someone new a 'hook' into astronomy, or sharing that beginner sense of wonder, makes this fun.


#35 SteveNH

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 07:19 PM

How have I evolved in my hobby of astronomy?

Like with many others, it began with being awed at the breathtaking view of Saturn's rings through a 60mm telescope; a clean, sharp, tiny little ring etched around a tinier yellow dot, all just floating there inside a stark black void, with the illusion of suspended time. I stared in wonder, and felt the universe was calling me. I had to see more.

Fast forward 48 years - finally beginning to understand how little we knew of galaxies at the turn of the century, and the significance of those familiar names like Hubble, Einstein, Slipher, Henrietta Levitt that I had always read about.

I now observe with more of an understanding of our place among the stars - it's like finding your bearings for the first time; but I still stare in wonder, and still have to see more.

#36 csrlice12

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 08:07 PM

"Fast forward 48 years - finally beginning to understand how little we knew of galaxies at the turn of the century, and the significance of those familiar names like Hubble, Einstein, Slipher, Henrietta Levitt that I had always read about."

It's when we look back 48 years and don't know more then that we're in trouble...both as individuals and as societies.

#37 Glen A W

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 12:42 PM

Mine went something like Moon-planets-galaxies-comets-more comets-even more comets-variable stars-photoelecrtic photometry-CCD imaging-deep sky visual observing. GW

#38 Glen A W

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 12:49 PM

While I am at it, I should say I started with a 60mm, which I got more love out of than anything. Then 4.5" reflector and 4" achro refractor. Too small to really give it to me. A C14 was too much trouble and never cooled down and I kept it only a few months.

Now I use a 10" CG Newt and a Vixen 260, with a Skywatcher 100ed and ETX80. I am unlikely to buy scopes again unless my current stable gets damaged somehow. I am totally happy with these scopes mentioned. Everything I want to do is covered and I am very lucky to have them! The particular examples are as good as I can get, and that makes a big difference, too. GW

#39 Starman1

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 03:30 PM

I started out in 1963 with a 4.25" Edmund reflector.
Looking for better optics, that became a 4" refractor in 1970.
I had a dozen pairs of binos and at least a dozen or more scopes by the time I finally got to an 8" in 1993. So I had had a plethora of small scopes.
The 8" became a 12.5" in 2004 and a seriously high-end 12.5" in 2012 (scope #22).
Like Tony, that is my "cap" in aperture, given my lifestyle, desire for portability, and the huge number of objects visible in that aperture that i won't live long enough to see.

But, I've always had a second or third scope along the way. I acquired a 5" Maksutov in 2001 that had superb optics, and I've kept that and upgraded the mount a few times.
And a widefield 4" refractor makes a nice "big object" instrument to look at the horde of named asterisms (like the Coathanger) that are too large for typical scopes.

I went from a basket full of cheap eyepieces to a barrel full of medium price eyepieces and now to a case full of the high-end ones. But my eyepiece addiction (ocularholosim) is pretty much conquered, and 6 eyepieces pretty much does everything I want the eyepieces to do. It took over 300 eyepieces to arrive at that point, though, and sometimes I get to thinking I should "re-collect" some of them, but then my daydream ends.

It's really about time. If I observed 40 hours or more per month, I could justify just about anything. But I get in maybe 8 to 9 hours a month, and my time is spent more in preparing for observing, and observing, and recording my observations, than it is with thinking about new equipment.

But I just got some 9mm 120 degree eyepieces, and I HAVE to try one out before they disappear. Unlike Tony, I love 100 degree and wider eyepieces, even for observing the Moon and planets. They make planetary and lunar observing possible at 456X in a non-motorized dob, and I love the big panoramic views I get through them.

Having stuck with small scopes for years, and learning to observe really faint stuff with small scopes and cheap eyepieces has made me really appreciative of a great larger scope with high-end eyepieces. I would still be observing even if I had had to stick with the smaller scopes, but I'm grateful that such beautiful equipment was developed.

More than anything in the equipment, though, it is the observing that keeps me going back out to the desert and mountains every month. There are so many objects I haven't seen! And it's knowing that one of them will become a favorite that keeps me pushing, always, to view new objects every time I'm out. And that is the most important evolution that has happened in my observing: from a backyard lunar/planetary observer to a dedicated deep-sky observer seeking to push out the edge of the universe that's visible. I haven't made the "billion light year club"....yet.
But if a 12.5" can reach out that far, I'll keep trying (Quasars don't count).

#40 buddyjesus

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 08:46 PM

First I was a peeker, then I was a starer, then I started sketching. haha

#41 sg6

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 01:45 PM

Scopes:
ETX 70 back around 2000 then nothing for a few years,
WO Megrez 90,
ETX 105,
HEQ5, EQ5 (the HEQ5 is a bit too big for ease of use),
WO GT-81.

Eyepieces: TV plossls, WO SWANS, UK equivalent of A-T Paradigms, few Antares W70's and a general assortment of other plossl's.

Future: Not sure, wouldn't mind a big reflector just to try but no great urge to have one.

#42 Chucky

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 03:15 PM

For me, it started this way. Thanks Dad and Mom. Best birthday gift I've ever had! Circa 1966. I must have been well ahead of my time......as the picture shows I was starting my Tasco 50 on an artificial star setup in our front yard.

Still have this scope. Box and all accessories.

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#43 csrlice12

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 04:27 PM

OMG, I'd recognize that Orion "earthquate" alt/az mount/tripod anywheres!!!! My first tasco had that mount...maybe even that same model scope (think mine was a 60mm though).

#44 Matt Wallin

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 01:35 AM

I was a fascinated by astronomy and spaceflight as a kid and was a voracious reader of everything Astro. I had an inexpensive 60mm refractor as a kid (in retrospect kind of a POS), I remember sticking mostly to Luna, Jupiter and Saturn, my attempts to see the spectacular M13 and other deep sky objects just never quite looked like I thought it should (of course now I know why!). I learned a fair number of constellations and I am amazed to think back to how good the sky was in my suburban backyard (Milky Way was visible!) but without a mentor, and the arrival of adolescence (girls, girls, girls!) with the exception of some light reading, I mostly put astronomy aside. A couple years ago, two things coincided, my wife was pregnant with my son, and an unusual stretch of clear weather had me looking up in amazement night after night. Something sparked in me and I remembered my childhood awe and passion, it was something that I wanted to reacquaint myself with and hoped to share it with my son. I soon had a real obsession on my hands! Considering the $$$ you can spend on this pastime, I decided to take the often expressed advise to learn the sky for a whole year, with just my 8x40mm binoculars, it was good advise! I quickly filled in most of the gaps in my constellations and I knew the location of (and had tantalizing views of) dozens of Messier objects before I got my scope. My wife saw me looking at a website, contemplating joining the local club, the Rose City Astronomers, and unbeknownst to me signed me up for the club and one of their dark sky weekends for a gift, I'm a lucky guy! After a year of pining, I had saved up for a scope. I knew I was even more obsessed a year later, so I wasn't too concerned about making a big purchase and then losing interest. The star parties I went to with the club convinced me for my interest, deep sky, bigger was the way to go. A 10" Dob seemed like the sweet spot, considering my $$$ and car size, and I still think it was a great place to start for deep sky. Of course I'm already thinking of my next step up, but I know that I have a LOT of exploring and observing to do with this 10". Before I bought a scope, I went to several star parties with my club, I knew that the widefield eyepieces were definitely my thing, I loved the immersive views. I wanted to get eyepieces that would satisfy me for a good while, so I thought I'd start with Explore Scientific 82* eyepieces. I was pretty happy with those, especially when I compared the views I was getting to some of my observing companions' scopes with Plossls and the like. I ended up with the 8.8mm and 14mm 1.25" eyepieces, as well as the TermiNagler wannabe, the 30mm, my first BIG piece of glass, I think it's pretty fantastic! After a lot of internal debate, I decided to fill the gap around 20mm with the ES 100* 20mm, reasoning that it would weight about the same as my 30mm and thus balance nicely. Well...that thing blew me away, the contrast was astonishing! It set off a burning desire, one I hadn't planned on, to get the set. I sold the 8.8mm and 14mm 82*, and now have the ES 100* 14mm, and soon the 9mm (and the 5.5mm whenever it is released). I know some folks can't take in the full 100* or just don't like that wide of field, but it is an incredibly intoxicating vista for me, and I am definitly hooked. I'm hoping that this series of eyepieces will hold me for a very good while. so that I can concentrate my fairly limited astro funds on some other projects, like building an eq platform, getting a nice pair of BA-8 15x70mm binoculars, and eventually building a ~16" Dob.

#45 Stargaz18

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 04:16 PM

For many many yrs it was "I'd love to get..." Then finally one Saturday my wife calls and says this guy is selling this
big scope in his garage sale. So over I go and what do I find? Celestron C6 with CG-5 mount, GPS included and a JMI case for the OT for $400!!! I knew it was a good deal but at the time didn't know how good of a deal it was. Well from there I sold the scope and mount and bought my present C9.25 and mount. Have invested in a grab n go too, ES ED80.
Am now in the process of completing the ES82 EP series. The future as we all know....skys the limit!!

#46 OneGear

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 02:57 AM

Naked eye observer for decades. I thought an actual telescope an unreasonable extravagance because everyone I asked gave me the impression I needed to spend thousands to see anything worth looking at. Then discovered what binoculars on a tripod could show me.

Finally bought a discount scope against all advice and saw the moons of Jupiter and knew all the so-called "expert advice" I had gathered over the years was a damn lie.

Beware the advice offered. Quite often it costs you far more than anything's worth.

#47 Starman1

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 11:07 AM

Naked eye observer for decades. I thought an actual telescope an unreasonable extravagance because everyone I asked gave me the impression I needed to spend thousands to see anything worth looking at. Then discovered what binoculars on a tripod could show me.

Finally bought a discount scope against all advice and saw the moons of Jupiter and knew all the so-called "expert advice" I had gathered over the years was a damn lie.

Beware the advice offered. Quite often it costs you far more than anything's worth.

Seeing the moons of Jupiter is possible in binoculars.

As for discount store telescopes, there are some decent ones and some that are complete garbage. You're lucky if the type you got was OK, because most are not.

I don't know why people think you have to pay thousands to get a decent scope. That just may be an impression made by the fact that non-astronomers tend to run into the more active members of our hobby, and those people may have expensive equipment.

Though they're not ideal in any sense of the word, I've always extolled the virtues of the humble 4.5" reflector as a first scope (started out with a 4.25" back in 1963), available for $149-$279. A beginner's scope should at least be able to see all the Messier objects.

#48 Matt Wallin

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 11:53 AM

The year that I spend learning the sky with my birding binoculars before buying my scope was very, very rewarding. I think that it really fixed the location of many Messier and Caldwell objects for me in a very concrete way. I can point a Telrad right at quite a few of them, and I attribute that to the binocular viewing that I have done. People are blown away when I show them galaxies, nebula, star clusters with their birding binoculars when we are out camping with family and friends. Advice from the experienced should be considered, but it's not the gosphel, people parrot unvarified things with surprisingly great vehemence on a regular basis. Naked eye astronomy is great, but it's a bummer that you missed out on so much more believing that sky-worthy optics were out of your reach.

#49 csrlice12

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 12:34 PM

The worst scope today, is better then the best scope available to Galileo or Copernicus or any of the early astronomers. Imagine how they would have felt with a 76mm Funscope, which would outperform anything they had....Then imagine what they'd think of a 30" dob....

#50 Escher

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 03:36 PM

I'm a big believer in trying things out and reselling - so this is as close as I can remember..

ETX90 around 1998 or 1999 which I later sold and got out of astronomy all together for a few years.

Gave it another try around 2005 or 2006 with a Meade 10"Dob. Sold that too.. But I was hooked... Now is where it took off.

2006 - Meade 2080 (original, not LX3)- Sold
2007 - Orion 10" Dob (2nd try at the DOB - didnt take) - Sold
2007 - Meade LX90 (I think it was 2008) - kept that one for a few months - then got out of astronomy again.

2008 or 2009, not sure - another Meade 2080, also original. See a pattern here?

2010 - sold the 2080 - 1 year break.
2011 - Celestron 127mm Mak, Nexstar I believe - Sold in a week, Meade ETX125 on DIY Mount - Sold in 2 months - Celestron C11 Ultima - ohh that did it... that finally hooked me for good.

2012 - Wait for it... heres the big list:
Sold C11 - Bought Meade 7" Lx200
Bought ES AR127
Bought Lunt LS60
Sold AR127
Sold Meade 7"
Sold LUNT to fund POD
Bought POD XL3
Bought Celestron 8" EdgeHD
Bought Celestron CG5 Manual Mount
Bought Celestron CG5-ASGT Goto
Bought Meade 10" LX200 OTA
Sold 8" Edge to fund Meade 7" Mak OTA
and then...... drumroll..

Sold ALL except the POD for:
CPC1100.

Ahhhhh I have arrived... No plans to sell unless I run across an 11" Edge OTA or a C14 for a song...

There are a couple more in there somewhere, but I did a LOT of experimenting in 2012.. I finally know what I want and what works for me.






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