Why I Fired My Media Player And Went Back To Basics

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

magnavox stereoThere are times when I feel I like an analog man trapped in a digital world.

While I have worked in the past immersed in technology, including working on prototype hardware and pre-release software, I am increasingly realizing that the disposable, non-tactile, vaporware nature of life’s latest consumer purchases are trivializing life.

Several years ago when I bought my current house it came with an old Magnavox Hi-Fidelity stereo–the kind that is more a piece of woodwork furniture than anything. It is of course, very heavy, and hence the “free” nature of coming with the house, which made it at the time at least “interesting”. It seemed to be a copy of the one my parents had when I was growing up back in the 1970’s.

For the first couple of years it performed remarkably as an efficient collector of ambient dust. But, I decided should at least put it to work and make use of it. Now, it is just one of the more reasons to go back living the analog life.


On a trip down to the Goodwill thrift store, the source of much of my everyday clothing I admit, I found some 331/3rd LP albums and bought them to listen to. Yet, the selection was not especially interesting since I am not really into Laurence Welk or Zamphir’s hauntingly beautiful pan flute rhapsodies. But a few months later I found a retro record shop downtown having a colorful variety of LP records and bought a few now and then.

record-sgt-pepperLast week I had some extra time and stopped by the record store. (how long has it been since many of you said those words?) to my great surprise I found they were now selling brand new records of old classics. Yes, ones still having the plastic wrap around them, newly made looked just like the original jackets. There were numerous titles. Unfortunately they did not have the Police’s Synchronicity album, which I greatly wanted (in fact this album was the first Cassette Tape I bought years ago). And, I found what for me was a treasure, The Beatles Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!

At first I had a bit of sticker shock over the $23.99 price, but I later realized that represented about $3.50 in the late 1960’s so it seemed a little more fair for my thrifty ways. But, if it is necessary to resurrect a bit of history for my new analog, non-disposable perspective in life it is worth paying to keep the label companies in business.

The record jacket was as if it came fresh off the presses; not worn, torn, or faded. In fact when I tore off the plastic wrap I wondered how long it had been since I pulled a new record out of its cover for the first time.

While the nostalgic pop and hiss of old records is for many nostalgic and part of the vinyl experience it is refreshing to have clarity of pure music and when I thought about it that is actually the original experience of years ago since the first play of an record is this way.

The stereo has a few issues.  The potentiometer for the volume is scratchy, the tonearm needs adjustment, and the device that holds the record stack down is broken.  Unfortunately I have not been able to find a repair shop in the county that services these.  Back in the 1970’s we had a TV repair shop that you could get a service call to your own house.  The shop owner retired in the early 1990’s, probably at the right time.  So, I will make due I suppose.

I suspect that we no longer value such tangibilities.  As children many of us would be content with looking into the same reels of View Master photos for half an hour at a time.  We could study each picture until we memorized it and saw every aspect, hence appreciating every image.

Simple pleasures.  Try it some time.

Time to flip the record.

By Darren Smith

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

24 thoughts on “Why I Fired My Media Player And Went Back To Basics”

  1. Joseph Jones … thank you very much for the turn table tip…many of the candidates I’ve looked at were considerably more money. I will look for it, but if I can’t scrub up a list, can you name the “brand” or maker? Adcom’s recommended turntables included…one line article said a “great buy for under $2000. I’m not expert audiophile, and I consider my Adcom system to be a decent system for ordinary guys, so I’d like to have a TT that matches it. Maybe the Adcom stuff is better than I thought? I found your lists and as I feared, it overwhelmed me, plus is loaded with way to much temptation on all manner of audio gear, … but I couldn’t find the $500 model.

    My expertise, such as it may be, is limited to German Shepherd Dogs, most horse breeds & horse sport, and skis & skiing, which I can not participate in anymore (nor should I at 70+) due to old competition cervical injuries that have caught up to me. I’m also decent with measuring devices up to 2-300 tons plus and military stuff like armor & tanks of the M48 & M60 era. Not a lot of call for that stuff in retirement.

    “Contact” is easy to exchange here on IRL, if the author of a comment also has an avatar & decent profile that includes a email address. Mine does.

  2. Airdog, you can get an awesome TT ready to rock for $500, check TAS/The Absolute Sound magazine and Stereophile’s Recommended components (Oct and April issues, possibly the list is online).

    I don’t know how to exchange contact here, but I have what I consider to be the best DIY record cleaning recipe, works absolutely crazy awesome. I’m not sure I can post it public because of conditions from the source, a PhD who makes a $200k TT (I kid you not). He’s working on a lower cost version…ha ha!

    I should really check if the author of the recipe would allow me to post his DIY recipe.

  3. Jerry,
    You rock! I was personal friends w/James Bongiorno, the designer of your old GAS/Great American Sound amp. James died a couple years ago, and one of my best friends was executor of his will.

    James was a celebrated designer, and one of his audio power amps (yours or the first gen Ampzilla) made The Absolute Sound magazine’s list of All Time Top 100 Power Amps. James later co-created a company called “Sumo,” all American made gear. The name was to make fun of and turn on its head the Japanese trend, which was to purchase American companies like Marantz, Scot, etc, and make the gear in Japan. He took a purely American company and gave it a Japanese name. His Sumo “Charlie The Tuner” is another all-time audio classic, pure FM tuner.

    To say he was a high end “character” is an understatement, wearing canary yellow or fuchsia colored suits w/matching hats, insane alligator boots, etc. He was legend at Las Vegas CES, and I shall miss that forever.

    He was crotchety, but he just adored my other friend, a Marine Aviator. Beware when James got a little drunk, as he had a racist tendency and would use words not fit for mixed public consumption. One dinner he bought $100 bottle of wine (Krug or Christian Bros, can’t recall for sure). I returned the next night and bought dinner for the above unnamed aviator, $20 Clos du Bois, and my Aviator friend and I agreed it beat James’ bottle.

    My wife’s cousin dated Carlos Santana’s brother in the SF Bay Area where we lived. I worked at the Sausalito Record Plant w/Tower of Power, Roy Buchanan and New Riders of the Purple Sage, Sly Stone, etc.

    This is how small is the world: we live 800 miles away now. My wife drives a school bus for a child named Santana, whose father is Carlos’ nephew.

  4. Thanks Darren and all the others who commented from expertise. I have a beautiful Adcom system of receiver, pre-amp for a turntable, amplifier, etc. hooked to Marantz and Sonny accessory components. Other than the CD player, it all works…CD player is balky when I tried to use it last week. IIRC the Adcom system has an optional mode set up, either stereo or Hi-Fi Mono. It has sat unused ever since I “loaned” a great high end Pioneer turntable (by itself it weighed about 25 lbs or more) to a friend while he waited for his own new one…but he died and turntable is who knows where. That was back in the 1980’s. I mean how do you walk in to a dead man’s house and ask for your turntable back from grieving relatives not to mention his wife? I’m ashamed I even thought about it…which I did…”loaning” anything was so rare for me because of my books…they seem to leave and never return….which hacks me off.

    I have enough books to fill a small town library. Or more (?) ! Ranging from really old editions (like a leather bound 2nd edition full set Rudyard Kipling (gradma’s stash) of to modern, mostly classics or footnoted history oriented. I even have a “blacklist” of otherwise nice folks who should not be “loaned” anything…they are the black holes of borrowing.

    Anyway, I now plan to get up off some money (damn the good turntables are expensive today!) and buy a good turntable for some 400 plus vinyls I have from the 60’s and early 70’s….rock, folk and classical. Thanks y’all! 🙂 My kid just gave me a CD of Ludicio Einaudi (sic?) playing his own compositions which remind me of Pachelbel’s music…great just plain quiet time listening music. Similar to the “high energy” instrumentals of“Sima Deep”for the mood of the moment. I know if I can get it in vinyl it will sound even better. Regrettably my collection of 50’s and early 60’s 45 rpm’s fell victim to another “loan” gone bad. That guy didn’t die, he just moved to California and vanished.

    Why do people “borrow” stuff and forget your name? I can forgive a record I guess, but one of my books…no way. If I “loan” you a book, very rare these days, I’ll demand your first born child as collateral and then some. Maybe a RFID/GPS tag so I can Hellfire you if you vanish. I return all books loaned to me…so why does that seem odd? Why do so many people seem ambivalent about this book borrowing thing?

  5. As my grandmother passed away, I inherited all, ALL, of her records. This includes my aunt’s cases of 45s from the 60s that they would take to their listening parties.

    Unfortunately, Paint It Black is the only song which has damage (as they likely played it ten thousand times).

    I’ve got a ton of great golden age rock N roll. It is all boxed up right now, for when I buy my house and set up my music room there… I do not think there is enough time left in my existence to listen once to all the songs. 🙁

  6. Cool. When I was a little kid in the early 90s, I used to love our record player. A nice Technics system from the very early 80s if not 1980. My parents record collection was all music they had been given, maybe they bought one or two over the years as their priorities were work, save money, house, kids.

    I also enjoyed playing 45s at my grandmother’s. The one I listened to what must have been thousands of times was ‘The Big Rock Candy Mountain’. What a colorful history from that song, too!

    At home I used to listen to Johnny Horton, Lovin’ Spoonful, The Royal Guardsmen were my favorite though.. Snoopy’s Christmas album. It was a tradition to listen to that one non-stop as we set up Christmas decorations around the house and the tree.

    Snoopy landed for a pistol dual- the Baron was worried… But Snoopy was cool!

  7. I’ve got an old stereo rack and it still works:

    2 channel GAS amp 200 watts/channel, Sony pre-amp digital processing/parametric equalizer with fiber toslink to laptop connection, Sony tuner,
    Nakamichi cassette deck and Ohm F Lincoln Walsh Coherent floor speakers.

    Remember the crackling sound of playing a record? Here’s Quicksilver Messenger Service. The song is Cobra, no vocals.

  8. I fixed a ton of these back in the day. For a console some of the Magnavoxes were not bad sounding. You should still be able to find a replacement stylus on line (I’d buy a spare or two). If you can find a replacement phono cartridge I would snatch it up too. There was a company called Sams Photofacts that had schematic and servicing info you subscribed to. There should be one for your console tho’ it might have the turntable mechanism in a seperate issue, it gives basic instuctions and lube points. You can find some for free some that people charge for scans or copies. You need the model number that should be on a manila stock tag on the back, it’s a long number. Avoid 3 in 1 oil in the motor etc. as it guns gums up if you need to lube the motor get turbine oil (from heating and cooling supply ). Do a little research and it will work great they were built like tanks. Use Caig cramolin cleaner from MCM electronics on the web anything else can cause damage donot use WD40 on your controls, Caig stuff is so far ahead of other cleaners it is the only choice expensive but you don’t need to use much.

  9. The RIAA collusion on the introduction of CD’s is a prime example of the failing of our government and judicial to protect we the people as consumers. Their settlement for years of collusion and price gouging was nothing short of a farcical slap in the face 3 stooges style. In the late 1980s we went from cassettes of new releases moving from 6.99-7.99 to cds at $20.00. The RIAA assured us this was only temporary.

    Keep in mind that cassettes were much more costlier to produce while CD’s were pennies.

    The RIAA turned their decades of massive earnings and quadrupled it over night. They to this day still use those piracy rewards into legislation designed to take our rights and further control their grasp on media.

    The RIAA is one of the vilest despicable corporate lobbyist groups existing in America today.

    To hear the RIAA complain about pirates is nothing short of hypocrisy at the highest level. After all, the RIAA is the definition of piracy.

    I hope all of you with large CD collections that were overcharged by thousands of dollars enjoyed your ten dollar rebate check as compensation. Notice the prices only went up after the settlement.

    Again, massive failure by the Federal Govt and Judicial. Just another reason why we need a Revolution.

  10. Now in my late 60s I can still tell the difference between tapes I made from vinyl and CDs made from the computer. The sound is clearer and richer. The hissing sound of the needle before the music is time travel.

    In the 80s I had a Marantz system and albums were still available. Kate Bush ‘Running Up That Hill’ cannot be reproduced on a CD.

    One of the things I am going to do right along with building a wooden sailboat-nothing grand just 25 feet-cutter rigged sloop-three quarter keel, is obtain a system and start putting the library back together.

    Thanks Darren.

  11. Hey joseph my kids new to this but i tried to tell him he could find the melody on vinyl,…is that mono killed the stereo…..or do i need to listen first….i dont want any ” messages”_

  12. The scratchy potentiometer should be pretty easy to fix with contact cleaner and some vigorous back and forth. Check out YouTube.

  13. LPs are almost outselling CDs. It looks like LP will outlive CD in fact!

    I borrowed a $4500 CDP, one of the world’s best, and in direct AB test my CDP was at least as good if not better.

    My LP turntable comprises the platter, motor, and bearing from a US-built 1950s Empire 509, on a custom CNC machined plinth cut from solid 1.5″ aluminum, 75 lbs total. The TT makes my CDP sound like its broken.

    Strangely, nothing sounds quite as good as a mono LP played on a dedicated mono cartridge. Last year EMI released all new mono mastered Beatles box collection, and it is absolutely to die for. If Darren heard it he’d fall out his chair. It sounds like George and John are raised from the grave and performing again. It’s truly that good. And no audiophile ever says such thing about stereo Beatles LP, which ranges from D to B- at best.

    An LP pro reviewer did AB test at a big audio show, the Beatles in mono vs. stereo, and universal reaction without dissent is the mono killed the stereo.

  14. Neat. I never had a view master. Had to look at my friend’s in early 80s. But My yr 2000 kids got one from g pa. Along with his vynil and table. The “memorization” part comes from physical interaction. Living – life. Not just passing time – boredom….you know whats on the otherside don’t you? And probably can remember the aroma that wafted through your house after dinner when you set it down. And the needle right. Gates and jobs ruined ….Living life…..robbed of our senses oblivious to whats around us consumed by a window tap or flip.

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