I’ve had a “stereo” of one kind or another since I was 10 years old. Does anybody even call it a “stereo” anymore? Is there a human connection with stereos, like there is with cars?
Restoration of a Zenith Portable Stereo, found for $5. Now in a San Francisco boutique.
So, I was basically hatched in the radio business. There, the day-to-day “fidelity” of what you are working on is just an afterthought. Either something sounds good, or it doesn’t. If “Fleewood Mac’s Rumors” got cue burn, you threw it away and pulled another. The tape heads weren’t cleaned until the grease pencil gunk got under your fingernails. When I was 26, everything sounded pretty damn good to me anyway.
My wife-to-be, 1986, clogging up the heads with white grease pencil
Recently I put together an odd assortment of components for my living room Hi-Fi.
. I’ve always been head-slapped at the revolutionary idea of 2 or more satellite speakers and a subwoofer. Why this idea had not been introduced into the personal listening space sooner is beyond me. For 50 years, manufacturers have been trying to make speaker cones bend in physics-defying ways in order to reproduce music from a single source, or two sources, woofer/tweeter, or stereo. I guess Western-Electric was doing bi-amped systems all along, but they were mostly in movie theaters.
So I rounded up a decent Altec computer speaker system consisting of two satellite speakers and a subwoofer. I got it a couple years back on Woot. for $49.
Ugly Satellite speaker enclosures must go.
I mixed these components with a mono tube amplifier (6L6) push-pull and an extra large full-range ceiling speaker, in its own enclosure. The subwoofer and the ceiling speaker are on the first floor. Add a tiny Behringer mixer for the mono sum and routing, and an abandoned TV cabinet.
A 1950’s Motorola TV Cabinet. The front controls are tube power, tone, volume, subwoofer power, and sub volume.
Oh, and those ugly little Altec black plastic satellite enclosures will have to go. In with some 1950’s police squwak boxes.
Police Squaak boxes found at swap meet. Jensen Speech Master 4″ communications speaker.
Here they are post-restoration:
Restore the speakers and the tv cabinet, stuff the amp, speaker and mixer in, drag it in the living room, put the little speakers on the mantle, and plug it in…..
I haven’t sat down and listened to a record in a long time. Having been raised listening pop music production values, I tend to go there when auditioning sound systems.
I spent quite a bit of time balancing the tube amp with the computer speaker system, while listening to to Steely Dan’s “Aja”.
Its kind of fun running a tube amp, and this one adds lots of volume to the system, and takes away some of the mid-range and bass chores from the subwoofer. Is also got nice glowy glass.
Well, it sounds very nice, for what it is.
The last time I had something nice in the living room for playing music, was before the kids were born. And with kids, all you end up using your hi-fi for is playing Raffi records. God help ya’ll with young kids. Get behind me, Satan!
My main conclusion about my little system is that there seems to be a “wall” just outside the satellite speakers. It sounds nice seated in the middle position, its even loud, but the room doesn’t fill up.
I guess the big advantage to an exceptional stereo system- is that it interacts with the room. You are surrounded with sound, but not just from multiple little speakers- you are surrounded with room reflections.
Then I put on some opera (Cecilia Bartoli), hoping for the walls to go away. And they sort of did, because I was no longer listening to a 24 track studio production of highly isolated instruments, like on “Aja.”
Trying different sources, one thing I noticed was how horrible any music from Pandora sounds. Its take awhile, but I’ve finally, finally developed a real disdain for digital compression. CD’s sound good to me, but I’ve found MP3’s and any other similar scheme really fatigues my ears. I can’t listen to music for very long when its compressed. It starts to get irritating, like when there’s young kids in the room.
I still have the stereo I got as a teenager! A Pioneer SX-450 receiver when I was sixteen. And, a pair of Frazier Mark IV speakers, built in Dallas, Texas. These hang from the ceiling in my office, and take all sorts of abuse from the buzzes beeps and crunches when I’m testing audio signals. But they hang in there. In my office, I’ve been playing a lot of Seeburg background music while I toil away.
Frazier Speakers made in Dallas, Texas.
I’m a sound man, not an audiophile. -By Pete Verrando www.txsound.com