Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Sears Compact Stereo

Okay, I know this is two YouTube videos in a row, but someone just shared this on the Steve Hoffman Music Forums and it was just too good not to post! I remember I had an Emerson system like this and I loved it. Mine had cassette, not 8-track. ;-)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

iVinyl! The portable turntable is here!

I want mine now!

Too bad it doesn't work so well in the car.

Well, they may be joking, but this is actually not the first appearance of a portable has been tried before. Check out this puppy!...

I found this at the Boombox Museum... a wonderful place to kill an hour or two! Some real beauties there. I would love to take this sucker down to the beach some day and start cranking some of my old LPs...I'm sure it would turn a few heads.

I know I've also seen images somewhere online of an actual car turntable that was installed in the dash. I can't find the source now, but I'll keep looking. I seem to remember a long arm that extended out from the dashboard with a spindle that you would put the LP on. Pretty hard to believe, I know. But technology is advancing so quickly these days I would think getting a record to play in the car should be pretty easy by now.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cassettes making a comeback?

This is wild...remember my "Cassettes are still a great format" post from a couple of weeks ago? Well, I honestly had no idea that according to some people, cassette tapes are actually having somewhat of a resurgence in popularity. Check out this article from the Telegraph in the UK...

Rewind to the 1980s as the cassette tape makes a comeback

I wonder if this means someone will start making decent cassette decks again. Not likely though. I mistakenly attempted to buy a "new" cassette deck several years back. What a mistake that was...I figured that since cassette deck parts wear easily over time, it might be good to get a newer one with zero miles on it. I know, I can't believe I'm even admitting this. It was awful! Amazing amounts of noise coming from the deck, terrible S/N ratio, and audible wow & flutter. Cost me $100, but I returned it. Bought an old Technics deck for $40 and it blew the pants right off the other deck (which will remain nameless). Actually, then I found at second Technics deck at the dump for free, and that was also far superior to the newer deck.

Anyway, back to the tapes will be interesting to see whether other manufacturers besides TDK and Maxell will get back in the game. I saw a still-sealed Maxell Metal tape at a thrift store recently that had to be from the early 90s...maybe I'll go back and see if it's still there.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Vintage Knob

I gotta give a shout-out here to The Vintage Knob. I found out about this site through a forum I am a member of...hadn't seen it before a few months or so ago. Unfortunately just looking at it makes me want more gear. ;-) The site is loaded with specs and great photos of equipment from the 70s & 80s from the likes of Luxman, Marantz, Technics, Sansui, Pioneer, Sony, Thorens, Aiwa, Nakamichi, Teac, get the picture. It's easy to spend an hour or more here just looking through the photos and details of these beauties.

Here's the link: The Vintage Knob

Be sure to check out some of the extras here too, like the "Miscellaneous" page which includes some old catalogs, tests, and articles.

Note: I am not affiliated with The Vintage Knob in any way...just a fan!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Digital remastering is not always a good thing

Up until about a year and a half ago, I was fooled too. Digitally remastered? Don't believe the hype. Not all digital remasters are bad, but there sure has been a serious epidemic of horrendously offensive sounding remasters in the last 10-15 years or so.

Let's take the Yes catalog, for's been remastered and re-packaged twice now since the original CD releases came out in the 80s. I'm a huge Yes fan so I got suckered into buying them again both times they were reissued. But guess which ones sound the best? The very first batch that were released in the 80s. I kept buying the new ones thinking that the sound had to be even better, but honestly I never even compared the new versions to the old ones to see if that was true.

Are you familiar with the term "loudness war"? Basically, record labels now think their CDs need to be louder than everyone else's in order to compete. Since you can only go so far in terms of the maximum volume a CD can hold before clipping, how do you make it even louder from there? Compression, and lots of it. What does this mean?
  • Little to no dynamic range-- forget about quiet and loud parts, it's all at the same volume now!
  • When loud sounds like drums are squashed, they lose their impact and don't sound as "real."
  • Ear fatigue! Recordings mastered in this manner may sound good at first, but with prolonged listening you will actually notice that it's not very nice on your ears.
When CDs made their debut in the 80s, they promised a much wider dynamic range than was previously possible with records and cassettes. Ironically, they now tend to have a much more limited dynamic range than most LPs, and as a result sound much worse. Basically we have all been sold a bill of goods.

Do a Google search for "loudness war" or "loudness wars" and you will find tons of articles on this subject, most of which will explain it better and in more detail than I have here. Here are a few of them:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cassettes are still a great format

I know, call me crazy, but I think there is still a lot to like about cassettes. People complain about the sound quality and durability and, fair enough, they don't approach the sound of a good LP. But I've owned some tapes that sounded pretty darn good, and found a lot of them in cutouts bins for about three bucks. Like a bunch of Frank Zappa tapes...Uncle Meat, Burnt Weeny Sandwich, Absolutely Free, Sleep Dirt, One Size Fits All...these cost me next to nothing, and not only is the music great, they sound good! I remember years ago when suddenly all of David Bowie's Ryko cassettes were showing up in the 3 dollar bin and I was in heaven.

And that's just pre-recorded tapes. Boy, I'll tell you...I recorded some great TDK SA-90s in my day. Man, if you got the levels just right...hoo boy! You ended up with one good sounding copy of your favorite LP or radio broadcast. There was something so satisfying about the process, and then when the final result made it all worthwhile...just pure magic. You just can't have the same experience burning a CD, I'm sorry. I mean, I still do it, and I'm not a total anti-CD audio purist, but I can really get into cassette culture.

Plus, the blank cassettes just looked so cool. How many blank CDs look cool? I can't think of one. Check out and if you're not drooling over the array of beautiful multi-colored audio artifacts from yesteryear...well, then I guess you're on the wrong blog. ;-)

Fond memories of Technics

Boy, I used to love Technics equipment when I was a kid. And still do! I know a lot of audiophiles will turn their nose up at this, but really, these guys made some great equipment back in the day. At the moment I am listening to the beauty pictured here, the Technics SA-350, which was made back in 1984, the year that "Owner of a Lonely Heart" was a big hit.

This thing is stunning. It's heavy, especially when compared to these cheap-ass receivers being made today, and it sounds beautiful. A very solid piece of equipment. 40 watts per channel and really low THD. It has a feature called "Stereoplex" which I think is supposed to enhance and widen the stereo image. I don't use it much but on some recordings it actually does sound pretty interesting. The craziest thing about it though is that it has a 'TV' band! So I can listen to my favorite programs on the stereo if I want. Of course this function will sadly no longer work in a few months when TV goes fully digital, but I don't care. This thing is far from obsolete. I've been using it at my office but I might have to find a way to work it into my home system.

If you are a fan of Technics like I am, do yourself a favor and check out the Vintage Technics website if you haven't already. As you can see, that's where I got the photo above. I'm not associated with the site at all, I just think it's a great resource. You can find info and photos there of pretty much anything that Technics ever made.